Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Single-Parent Families

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Single-Parent Families

Article excerpt

KISSMAN, Kris and Jo Ann ALLEN, SINGLE-PARENT FAMILIES. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications, Inc, 1993, 159 pp., $14.95 Softcover

JOYCE A. ARDITTI*

Recently, single-parent families have been the subject of much debate and controversy-being blamed for a large portion of children's malaise and other contemporary evils. Central to much of the concern is a belief that single parent families constitute a deficient family structure which inevitably leads to negative family outcomes. "Single Parent Families" provides a much needed break from the deficit based discourse that has been so predominant on this subject. The book is organized around the presumption that the singleparent family is one of many family forms characterized by a great deal of within-group variation. This variation, stemming from gender, race, ethnicity, age and life cycle differences, has important implications for the quality of life in single parent families as well as interventions. In this volume, the majority of the authors' attention is devoted to interventions aimed at supporting the integrity of mother-headed households. The philosophical basis for these interventions is outlined in Ch. 2, where the feminist influence in social work is discussed and practice principles like networking, empowerment, and emphasis on women's experiences, are seen as crucial in assisting single mothers and counteracting negative stereotypes.

Ch. 3, "Conversations and Consultations with Single Mothers and Their Families" continues the discussion of how best to implement gender-sensitive premises into practice that is responsive to the realities of mother-headed families. The use of therapeutic techniques such as reframing and restorying are considered as a means of empowering single mothers. Ch. 4 extends the context of intervention from the individual to multiple systems of influence. The interconnectedness of social, psychological, physical, and cultural factors are the basis of consideration in this chapter providing an excellent foundation for intervention. The role of the therapist is to transform "problem-determined" systems into "problem-solving" systems by focusing on and enhancing the single mother's strengths and to affirm her in her parent role. The context of the larger social system, which often reinforces a deficit model view of mother-headed families, must be counteracted. Consistent with the ecological framework laid out in chapter 4, chapters 5 & 6 specifically address single mothers', need for support from family members, partners, as well as sources in the community.

Issues pertaining to family diversity are reflected in chapters 7, 8, 9, which focus on the needs of ethnic families" adolescent parents and single-father headed households respectively. In chapter 7, the authors rightly point out that practitioners should have an understanding of how "ethclass" (combination of ethnicity and class) has generated survival strengths, that although often viewed as deviant by mainstream culture, prove quite useful for many ethnic families. Chapter 8 summarizes an interesting program between a school of social work and a teen parent program designed to disseminate information pertaining to parental skills, knowledge of child development, and support utilization. …

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