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Stress and the Family. Marriage and Family Interaction HPER F258 Kathleen R. Gilbert, Ph.D. Indiana University. For next class. Write a letter assignment at We will discuss this at the beginning of class on April 17.

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Stress and the family

Stress and the Family

Marriage and Family Interaction


Kathleen R. Gilbert, Ph.D.

Indiana University

For next class

For next class

  • Write a letter assignment at

  • We will discuss this at the beginning of class on April 17.

Functional and dysfunctional family coping figley mccubbin

Functional and Dysfunctional Family Coping (Figley & McCubbin)

  • Developed from 4,000 studies of stress and coping in families

  • Both normative and non-normative stressors

  • Family focused, not individual (in fact, some things that are functional for family may or may not be functional for individuals (and vice versa)

Identification of the stressor

Identification of the stressor

  • F = clear and acceptance, D = unclear and denial

    • They know what is causing the stress in the family and, at minimum, do not deny its seriousness or its reality.

    • Denial may be functional coping for individuals but is not for family as a system.

Locus of the problem solution

Locus of the problem/solution

  • F = family centered, D = individual centered

    • “Ours” vs. “yours”

    • Work together as a team

Approach to the problem solution

Approach to the problem/solution

  • F = solution oriented, D = blame oriented

    • Looking for ways to solve problem, resolve differences vs. getting “stuck” in looking for who to blame

    • Future orientation instead of past

    • More positive view

Tolerance of others

Tolerance of others

  • F = high, D = low

    • This is tolerance of differences within the family

    • Agree to disagree

Commitment to and affection for family members

Commitment to and affection for family members

  • F = clear and direct, D = unclear and indirect

    • Family is seen as of prime importance

    • Sometimes willing to treat family as more important than self

    • Affection = “Doing out of caring”



  • F = open and supportive, D = unclear and indirect

    • No mixed messages

    • Clear and focused on the issue

    • Not intended to manipulate

Family cohesion

Family cohesion

  • F = high, D = low

    • The closer the family is, the better

    • Facilitates family working as a team to solve a problem or resolve an issue

Family roles

Family roles

  • F = flexible and shifting, D = rigid

    • The more flexible the role assignments, the greater the likelihood that the family can adapt to deal with stress or disruption to the family system

Resource utilization

Resource utilization

  • F = balanced to high, D = low to none

    • Availability AND willingness to use resources

    • Both internal and external resource are relevant, but if external not use, will deplete internal.

    • (Also possible that is a problem if resources used so that they do not take back control/responsibilities)

Use of violence

Use of violence

  • F = absent, D = present

    • This includes all forms of the use of physical pain for control

      • Includes corporal punishment of children

Use of drugs

Use of drugs

  • F = infrequent to none, D = frequent

    • Seems obvious, but is not restricted to illegal drugs, also includes tobacco products and alcohol

    • Includes OTC (over-the-counter) and certain prescription drugs(as possible indicators of problems elsewhere)

Overall movement toward recovery

Overall -- Movement toward recovery

  • this is in addition to F&McC's list

  • F = dynamic, D = static, regressive

    • The general view of the family is that they are not “stuck” at some point in the resolution of the stress, but are moving forward with it.

Small group discussion how your family manages stress

Small group discussion -- How your family manages stress

  • In your small group, discuss:

    • How does your family deal with stress in conflicts? Consider the following:

    • When is my family most 'vulnerable' to stress overload?

    • When is conflict most likely to occur?

    • How do I know tension is building?

    • Words or phrases that usually "set people in my family off?

    • Topics that we avoid to avoid conflict?

    • Things I say to myself when tension is building in my family?

    • How does my family respond in stressful situations

Final thoughts on lecture material

Final Thoughts on Lecture Material

  • Identify one point in the lecture that you could use to deal with stress you might experience in any current relationship (romantic or otherwise).

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