Family Routines and Rituals. Barbara H. Fiese. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. 2006. 159 pp. ISBN 0-3000-11696-6. $55.00. (cloth)
Barbara Fiese's Family Routines and Rituals is indeed, as she writes, "broad-reaching" (p. 9) in that she addresses a variety of ways in which routines and rituals are important to family life. In her first chapter, Fiese covers the five major areas of family life she will connect to routines and rituals, each corresponding to a different chapter. In each area, Fiese integrates research on family routines and rituals from different areas, such as developmental psychology, family therapy, and research conducted at her Family Research Lab at Syracuse University. Unfortunately, Fiese does not give any detail about research participants or the methodological approach(es) used at the Family Research Lab. Thus, readers have no information about the social and economic backgrounds of the participants. This book would have benefited from such an inclusion, if only as an appendix.
The author examines how the media misconstrues family routines and rituals and provides an interesting overview of the historical development of family rituals in Chapter 2. In this chapter, Fiese makes an important point that the amount of time families spend in routines or rituals, or both is not as important as the repetition of and the "emotional investments made in sustaining such activities" (p. 41). Drawing on the family life cycle approach in Chapter 3, Fiese examines how major transitions in many families' lives involve routines and rituals. Although some might critique Fiese's use of family life cycle, she includes a nice discussion of why scholars have to consider the family life cycle with this topic. In the six transitions, Fiese describes, she discusses how the meanings of rituals evolve for each developmental stage and how families negotiate rituals.
Chapter 4 covers cultural variation in routines and rituals. Fiese does this by examining dinner table interactions of various cultures, rituals for rites of passage (i.e., Bar Mitzvahs and mujercitas), and how immigration affects family routines and rituals. Fiese, in Chapter 5, looks at the role rituals and routines play in a person's health status. This is the weakest chapter of the book in that the links Fiese makes do not seem supported by the data she uses and they lack explicit connections. She does make an interesting case for a connection between perceptions about an illness/condition and health outcomes. Fiese argues that how a family perceives and responds to a member's illness/condition and the routines that develop in response to it can either negatively or positively affect that person's health status. …