Family Psychology III: Theory Building, Theory Testing, and Psychological Interventions

Article excerpt

LUCIANO L'ABATE: Family Psychology III: Theory Building, Theory Testing, and Psychological Interventions. University Press of America, Dallas, TX, 2003, 374 pp., $56.00 ISBN 0-7618-2302-6.

Over the past two decades, family psychologists have contributed greatly to our understanding of how individual adjustment is related to family dynamics and other social interactions. The family psychology literature has mushroomed during that time, as is evident from the publication of many new journals and a large number of books. Family Psychology III: Theory Building, Theory Testing, and Psychological Interventions is the third in a series of volumes from University Press of America composed of reprinted articles by Luciano L'Abate, a prolific writer and pioneering family psychologist. As in the first two volumes (published in 1983 and 1987, respectively) of this series, the articles in this volume provide a description of the author's program of research and clinical experiences. What is unique about this volume is the author's effort to include articles that connect seemingly disparate models of personal and interpersonal development and to present the reader with "an integrative and all-encompassing theory of intimate relationships" (p. 14).

The book includes 23 chapters that are loosely organized into five sections. The first section consists of three chapters and highlights the major theories and concepts in family psychology. L'Abate begins by describing three theoretical models that help illustrate how individuals develop interpersonal relationships. The first model, attachment, proposes that an individual's assumptions and beliefs about emotional security and nurturance have an important influence on the quality of his or her intimate relationships. Selfhood, the second model, emphasizes that an individual's personality traits (e.g., optimism, altruism), not his or her assumptions or beliefs, are the primary determinants of relationship quality. Finally, the elementary pragmatic model deemphasizes the role of individual characteristics in determining relationship quality and highlights the bidirectional and sequential nature of influences between people in relationships. L'Abate points out that the three models, although rooted in the academic field of family psychology, are also relevant to the applied field of family therapy. However, he fails to explain how each of the models might be applied to the treatment of families or their individual members.

In the second section (five chapters), L'Abate expands on some of the theoretical concepts in family psychology. He first describes how individuals become competent in key areas of interpersonal functioning, including emotional intimacy, sexuality, and conflict resolution. Within each of these areas, L'Abate suggests that an individual's "ability to love" and his or her "ability to negotiate" (i.e., to be flexible) determine how well he or she functions in relationships. L'Abate then explains that while the attachment, selfhood, and elementary pragmatic models are derived from different theoretical traditions (i.e., object relations, systems, and personality theories, respectively), these models describe the same patterns of healthy interpersonal relationships. For example, a relationship that is defined as "secure" from an attachment perspective has many of the same qualities as a relationship characterized by "selfulness" in the selfhood model or by "sharing" in the elementary pragmatic model. …