Academic journal article Family Relations

Families and Health: An Empirical Resource Guide for Researchers and Practitioners

Academic journal article Family Relations

Families and Health: An Empirical Resource Guide for Researchers and Practitioners

Article excerpt

As evidence mounts indicating that the quality of family relationships affects family member health and that the health of family members influences the quality of family relationships and family functioning, it becomes crucial for family scientists to determine and understand the mechanisms underlying these associations. An empirical resource guide for researchers and practitioners focusing on the complex relationships between family relationships, context, health, intervention, and treatment is presented.

Key Words: couple health, families and health/illness, family caregiving. health.

The bidirectional associations between "family" and "health" are of increasing interest to family scientists. As evidence mounts indicating that the quality of family relationships affects family member health and that the health of family members influences the quality of family relationships and family functioning, it becomes crucial for family scientists to determine and understand the mechanisms underlying these associations. Better understanding of these associations is dependent on researchers and practitioners becoming familiar with an interdisciplinary literature base that spans the fields of family studies, psychology, medicine, health psychology, psychiatry, nursing, marriage and family therapy, and gerontology.

This annotated bibliography was intended to appeal to researchers, educators, and practition- ers, and as such includes articles emphasizing contemporary research findings, theoretical con- tributions, and application. The goal of this article was to review contemporary research focused on families and health in order to high- light what is known about the links between family processes, the contexts in which fami- lies are situated, and health outcomes. Particular interest was placed on theoretically grounded research, research that contained direction for practice or intervention, and research covering topics of current interests to researchers, prac- titioners, and funders alike. A subsidiary aim was to offer a sampling of literature from across the life course, and thus this review covers the link between families and health from childhood through old age. In line with the call for submis- sions for this special issue, a broad definition of both families and health is offered. Specifically, in searching for articles to include, family was defined as individuals related through blood, marriage, or choice. The literature in this area has focused primarily on biological or married families, and thus these family types are more frequently represented in this review. Health was conceptualized both at the broad level, including general health indicators and reports of overall health, and at the micro level, including specific diseases that are currently well represented in the literature on families and health (e.g., can- cer, diabetes, heart disease). The review includes research on both mental and physical health. Although this broad scope limits an in-depth review of each article, it maximizes the relevance of this review to a broader authence of researchers and practitioners.

Articles selected for review were published in the last 10 years, were interdisciplinary in nature, and focused on at least one of the emphases listed above. Articles were identified through online library catalogs and electronic databases (e.g., Academic Search Premiere, Psychlnfo, MedLine, Scopus), review of key journals in the field (e.g., Family Relations, Journal of Marriage and Family, Journal of Family Psychology, Child Development, Journal of Pediatric Psychology), and reference lists of review pieces. When searching electronic databases for literature, combinations of the following search terms were initially used: family, children, marriage, adolescence, health, pediatric, geriatric, well-being, psychological well-being, depression, disease, disorder, and caregiving. After reviewing the articles identified with this search, as well as recent review articles in the field, additional searches for terms that would allow a focus on several specific diseases that appear frequently in the literature, including diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and obesity, were conducted. …

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