Emotions and the Family: For Better or for Worse

Emotions and the Family: For Better or for Worse

Emotions and the Family: For Better or for Worse

Emotions and the Family: For Better or for Worse


This book presents, for the first time, a full range of perspectives on emotions and the family from the radical behaviorist to the intrapsychic. B. F. Skinner begins the volume by examining the role of feelings in applied behavior analysis, thus laying the groundwork for the reactions of many distinguished contributors. Offering both opposing and favorable comments, contributors also present their own original empirical, theoretical, and clinical perspectives. Finally, the editor integrates the contributors' positions into an expanded behavioral perspective on the study of emotions and suggest a model for effective family communication.


"Why is every critical moment in the fate of the adult or child so clearly colored by emotion?" (Vygotsky, 1987, p. 335). Emotion-free human behavior may be unimaginable (Buck, 1984; Leventhal & Tomarken, 1986), because emotion reveals the structure and the function of behavior. As a response to a demanding environment becomes more energetic, it becomes more emotional (Cowan, 1982; Dodge, 1989; Piaget, 1954/1981). Since all responses to a challenge vary from low to high on reactivity, behavior can never be unemotional. As the consequences of behavior becomes more hedonically relevant to the individual, the consequences gain in functional impact, and the behavior they consequate becomes more emotional (Darwin, 1896/1955; Skinner, this volume; Zajonc, 1989). Because consequences for individuals vary from low to high in functional impact and are controlled by these consequences, behavior can never be unemotional.

Never unemotional, behavior is at its emotional peak at home, where the heart is. Families, therefore, provide a natural laboratory for investigation of emotional experience and expression. This volume is unique for its thorough scientific coverage of emotions in the context of family life.

Although contributors differ about the structure of emotions, they are in accord about emotions' adaptive function. All contributors portray family members' competence as dependent on the way emotions are experienced and expressed within the group.

The book opens with a position paper by Skinner titled Outlining a Science of Feeling . . .

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