Basic Research and Implications for Practice in Family Science: A Content Analysis and Status Report for U.S. Ethnic Groups

Article excerpt

Basic Research and Implications for Practice in Family Science: A Content Analysis and Status Report for U.S. Ethnic Groups*

Articles published in prominent family science journals over a 14-year period were analyzed for their attention to U.S. ethnic groups. Articles were analyzed in terms of their ethnic population of interest, topic of study, type of implication for applied professionals, funding source, and sample characteristics. A number of findings indicate an increasing sensitivity and dedication to research focusing on these groups; however, fewer than 16% of the articles were found to focus on U.S. ethnic populations, and only one fourth of these offered specific recommendations to practicing family science professionals. This analysis of the family science literature provides a baseline against which future efforts in basic and applied research can be measured.

Key Words: content analysis, ethnicity, family science research, race.

It is projected that ethnic minorities will outnumber those of the majority culture in the United States sometime this century (U.S. Census Bureau, 2000). This expected growth in the U.S. ethnic population is related to the high rates of immigration from Asia and Latin America, combined with high birthrates from these and other ethnic groups (U.S. Census Bureau, 1998). In response to these demographic and cultural changes, certain segments of U.S. society are more aware of ethnic diversity, including those in family science. For example, the 1999 National Council on Family Relations (NCFR) annual conference was specifically organized around the topic of culturally diverse individuals and families. Regardless of societal and professional responsiveness, however, there is evidence of continued discrimination, tension, and even conflict in U.S. race and ethnic relations.

As the United States becomes increasingly diverse, a greater degree of societal and governmental flexibility will be required to extend the rights and responsibilities of citizenship to all Americans. One important ingredient in the development and maintenance of this type of flexibility is an accurate understanding of U.S. ethnic groups. In a uniquely strategic position, family science occupies a central location in which professionals from various specializations can be exposed to accurate information about the ethnic groups that currently reside in the United States. In fact, the audience of one of the field's premier journals is described as including "family life educators .... researchers .... family practitioners . . . , and family policy specialists" (NCFR, 1999, Family Relations, inside cover).

Cognizant of its ability to disseminate a great deal of information to this broad spectrum of family-focused professionals, family science has focused research attention on U.S. ethnic groups at national conferences and in the form of special journal issues devoted to the topic (e.g., Fine, 1993). In fact, the field has allowed and encouraged critical analyses of its research attention to U.S. ethnic groups (e.g., Demo, Allen, & Fine, 2000; Demos, 1990; Dilworth-Anderson, Burton, & Turner, 1993; Vega, 1990). Recognizing that many of these reviews concentrated on a particular ethnic group or on a particular scholarly journal, this study is distinctive in its investigative focus on the family science field as a whole. Furthermore, rather than focusing on a particular ethnic group, this study was designed as a broad content analysis of the family science research literature relating to U.S. ethnic groups. In documenting the nature of past research, recent publication trends, and the overall status of the field, the intent was to establish a baseline against which future efforts in researching U.S. ethnic groups could be measured.

To organize and present the findings from this content analysis, the following questions were used to guide the investigation.

1. How many studies reported using an ethnically diverse sample? …