Family Transitions

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

8
Effective Communication: Enabling Multiproblem Families to Change

Elaine A. Blechman University of Colorado, Boulder

This chapter is about multiproblem families, their communication deficits, and their difficulties with normative and nonnormative transitions. It is also about a promising method of enabling multiproblem families to change.


MULTIPROBLEM FAMILIES AND TRANSITIONS

Consider Maria, a 27-year-old, bilingual, Hispanic mother and her two daughters, Juanita, aged 7 and Dolores, 3. Dolores' father, a drug addict, drifts in and out of the household. Violent arguments between the parents are frequent when he is at home. Maria did not finish high school and has never been employed. As a teenager she made several suicide attempts following episodes of sexual abuse by her father. She suffers from Type 1 diabetes and has been hospitalized at least yearly with episodes of major depressive disorder since age 20. Juanita has diabetes and spina bifida and moves around with the help of a walker. She has been subject to physical and sexual abuse and neglect by her mother and stepfather and isolated from contact with peers. She has a sweet, sunny manner and wants very much to please adults. Despite her obvious desire to please her teacher, her academic achievement is considerably below her capabilities. Dolores is a healthy, boisterous child who shows signs of language delay.

The family is supported by public assistance. For the last year, they have lived in a new apartment for the handicapped. A van for the handicapped transports Juanita to school and the whole family to the hospital for clinical visits. A homemaker assists the mother on week-days, but funding for her services is unlikely to continue. As a condition for retaining custody of her children, after

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