Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Understanding Diverse Families: What Practitioners Need to Know

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Understanding Diverse Families: What Practitioners Need to Know

Article excerpt

Understanding Diverse Families: What Practitioners Need to Know. Barbara F. Okun. New York: The Guilford Press. 1996. 376 pp. Hardcover ISBN 1-57230-056-6. $35.00.

Understanding the complexity of families today is becoming more challenging, given the increase in the diversity of family forms. This book assists mental health practitioners in working more effectively with family diversity. Barbara Okun espouses that, because mental health practitioners cannot choose clients, they have an ethical responsibility to learn how to work with a wide range of family configurations.

The book begins by refuting commonly held myths and stereotypes in order to challenge our thinking about what is considered "normal" and a "family." This is followed by a presentation of many different types of families, how they function, and their strengths. Specifically, Okun focuses on adoptive, gay and lesbian, and multiracial families. There is briefer coverage of three other family types: single parents by choice, grandparent families, and families created by reproductive technology. The conceptual framework is designed to stimulate discussion about families from an ecological perspective. Thus, each family type is presented in terms of historical and contemporary context, sociocultural context, developmental perspective across the life span, and treatment implications.

As a clinical psychologist, Okun has worked extensively with families, and she based much of the book on her own 3-year study of nonclinical families. The results of her qualitative study are combined with a thorough review of current research. …

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