of African American Families
Nancy E. Hill, Velma McBride Murry,
and Valerie D. Anderson
Early classic studies of the African American community highlighted variations among African American families, describing these families as adaptive, resilient, deviant, pathological, and culturally distinctive (Drake & Cayton, 1945; Du Bois, 1908). The heterogeneity of Black family life, with regard to value systems, lifestyles, and social class structure, makes it impossible to characterize a single type of African American family (Murry, 2000). Such diversity implores consideration of how circumstances emerging from exosystemic and macrosystem-level factors affect the daily life experiences of African Americans—that is, a sociocultural perspective (Dilworth-Anderson, Burton, & Johnson, 1993). Unfortunately, previous research has not fully captured the range of sociocultural contexts that have an impact on African American family life.
Sociocultural contexts, including social, political, and economic features, in which families reside, have strong implications for family functioning and dynamics and how families raise their children. Considering the complexity of the sociocultural context, we have identified three emerging issues that build on previous research and influence the next generation of scholarship on African American families: (1) how the terms “race,” “ethnicity,” and “culture” influence our understanding of and approach to studying African American family life, culture, and context; (2) the increase in diversity among African American families in the last century; and (3) identifying African American culture and the