Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Conflict and Cohesion in Families: Causes and Consequences

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Conflict and Cohesion in Families: Causes and Consequences

Article excerpt

Conflict and Cohesion in Families: Causes and Consequences. Martha J. Cox & Jeanne Brooks-Gunn (Eds.). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. 1999. 362 pp. ISBN 0-8058-2410-3. $79.95 cloth.

This volume summarizes the first of five summer institutes of the Research Consortium on Family Risk and Resilience. The aim of this consortium is to increase the quality of investigation and the level of collaboration in family research by bringing together scientists who each have an active, funded program of longitudinal family research on biological, psychological, social, or social-structural factors involved in the developmental course of mental health or illness. This volume takes a detailed look at the conflict and cohesion dimensions of family relationships. The problem of defining constructs such as these has often hampered efforts of research advancement. The contributors to this volume carefully distinguish between destructive conflict and constructive conflict and provide a number of examples of how the latter may have positive effects on family members. Regarding cohesion, a clear distinction is made between family cohesion, defined as shared affection, support, helpfulness, and caring, and enmeshment, defined as emotional fusion that potentially inhibits the individuation process and the maintenance of psychosocial maturity.

The contributions in this volume lead one to recognize that conflict-whether marital, parentchild, or sibling-sibling-is a fact of family life that may have constructive as well as destructive effects on the development of children. Contributors Prado and Markman make the point that although conflict itself is not problematic, the way in which conflict is handled can lead to problems. Cummings and Wilson point out that the major avenue through which marital conflict negatively affects a child is the threat to the child's sense of emotional security. Resolutions of conflict and explanations provided by the parents to the children about the conflict seem to decrease the negative effect of conflict. In another presentation, the avoidance of conflict, particularly when in the form of withdrawal from interaction, is shown by Cox and her associates to be an effective marker of poor marital relationships. …

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