Family Transitions

By Philip A. Cowan; Mavis Hetherington | Go to book overview

Preface

In the Summer of 1987 a group of 60 family researches--psychologists, sociologists, psychiatrists, nurses, and an epidemiologist--spent five days together in Santa Fe, New Mexico, thinking and talking about family transitions. It was the second annual Summer Institute sponsored by the Family Research Consortium (see the chapter by Reiss & Schulterbrant in Patterson ( 1989), the first volume in this series). A working group of ten family researchers meeting regularly at that time over a four year period, the Consortium planned a series of five Summer Institutes, supported by funds from the National Institute of Mental Health. Each summer we came together with colleagues across the country to exchange ideas about theories, methods, and new directions in research on a specific topic relevant to family adaptation. The first year we explored depression and aggression in families (see the volume in this series edited by G. R. Patterson, 1989). This year, the focus was on family transitions.

The subject of family transitions has been a central concern of the Consortium because studies of families in motion help to highlight mechanisms leading to adaptation and dysfunction. Most research paints a portrait of families at a point in time, or follows them at arbitrarily-chosen intervals. But families are always in a process of change and reorganization as they make life choices and as they adapt to unexpected events. Coping processes that are difficult to observe in static snapshots become vivid and clear when we see individuals and families struggling with new and unfamiliar life tasks.

The Institute generated so much excitement in its morning, afternoon, and evening sessions that it kept most of us away from the wonders of Santa Fe and its surrounding attractions. Nine papers were presented by members of the Consortium and invited guests, and were formally discussed in a committee of the

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