Healthy family functioning has been a key area of interest among helping professionals who provide family interventions. With the rapid development of family therapy and interventions in China, there has been an increasing need for a standardized assessment tool of family functioning in Chinese populations (Shek, 2001a, 2002; Yang, Kang, Zhao, & Xu, 2002). This paper reports further evidence on the psychometric properties (including dimensionality, reliability, and validity) of the Chinese Family Assessment Instrument (C-FAI), which was one of the first indigenous instruments developed for the assessment of family functioning in Chinese populations (Shek, 2002b).
A review of the current literature showed that quite a number of self-report instruments have been developed to measure family dynamics, processes, and functioning using a "strength" perspective (Early, 2001). Comparing the content domains of these instruments, effective communication, cohesiveness, intimacy, flexibility, and autonomy were often suggested to be the key dimensions to describe healthy family functioning (Walsh, 1993). Are the dimensions of a healthy family postulated in Western contexts applicable to the Chinese culture? While these dimensions might be quite universal across cultures, there are studies suggesting that Chinese people put much emphasis on harmony in family and social relationships (Allison, 1997). Chinese families are also more hierarchical in structure than families in Western cultures (Ho, 1996; Shek & Lai, 2000) and face-saving is an important concern in family or social problem solving (Ting-Toomey, 1988).
Researchers have assessed family functioning in Chinese populations using a variety of translated instruments. However, several of these studies showed that there were notable differences in factor structures when Western instruments were used in different cultures (Shek, 2001a, 2002a). This finding suggested that there is a need to address cultural differences in family functioning and to develop indigenous measures of family functioning in the Chinese culture.
The Chinese Family Assessment Instrument (C-FAI) is an indigenous self-report measure developed to assess family functioning intended for use with Chinese populations. In preparation for the development of the C-FAI, Shek and associates (Shek & Chan, 1998; Shek, 2001b) conducted a study on the attributes of happy families in Hong Kong. Using semi-structured interviews, the study collected views of parents and teenage children from 416 families. The results showed that Chinese parents and their children regarded the absence of conflict, interpersonal harmony, mutuality, connectedness, and positive parent-child relationships as the major attributes of a happy family. When compared with the image of a happy family in Western cultures, Chinese families are less likely to regard emotional expressiveness and communication as important for a healthy family (Shek & Chan, 1998).
Based on these attributes of happy families, Shek (2002b) constructed the Chinese Family Assessment Instrument (C-FAI). Factor analysis of the 33-item instrument identified five stable and reliable dimensions in the construct of family functioning: (1) Mutuality, (2) Communication and Cohesiveness, (3) Conflict and Harmony, (4) Parental Concern, (5) Parental Control. On closer examination of the dimensions of the C-FAI, the Mutuality, Communication, and Parental Concern factors represent dimensions related to cohesiveness and communication. The Parental Control factor could be seen as a subset of the flexibility dimension in Western cultures. The Conflict and Harmony dimension was a distinct dimension of family functioning in Hong Kong Chinese families, reflecting the importance attributed to the "absence of conflict." The other observation is that two out of the five dimensions of family functioning (Parental Concern and Parental Control) are related to functioning of parents, which suggested that parents are quite influential in family functioning in the Chinese family. …