Ecological and Cultural Diversity
in African American Family Life
Vonnie C. McLoyd, Nancy E. Hill,
and Kenneth A. Dodge
Few would dispute that the family is the basic social unit in the organization of human society and a primary context for the development and socialization of society's children (Hill, 1993). These axioms undergird efforts to modify family processes and understand factors that protect, strengthen, threaten, or otherwise affect these processes. They also stoke acrimonious debate about the legitimacy of particular family forms and practices, particularly those thought to have either direct or indirect influences on children's development and well-being. African American families, especially those at the lower end of the income distribution, often have been at the center of these debates, owing to their differences from “mainstream” American families in terms of family structure, living arrangements, and childrearing practices. Some of these differences have been purportedly linked to poor child functioning (e.g., Bracey, Meier, & Rudwick, 1971; Kelley, 1997; Moynihan, 1971; Peters, 1978; Quadagno, 1994; Tulkin, 1972).
This volume, informed partly by these controversies, focuses attention on emerging issues in numerous facets of African American family life, including family formation, marital relations, childrearing, care of the elderly, employment, and religious practices. Special attention is given to recent contributions to our understanding of how African American families accommodate, subvert, transform, and otherwise