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What is a family?
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What is a family?

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  1. What is a family? • For some, the family is blood-related kin • For some, the family is psychologically connected. • For some, the family is composed of people living in the same house or neighborhood • For some, the family is a group of 2 or more people related by birth, marriage, or adoption and residing together in a household. • The family is more than a collection of individuals but instead it is a whole larger than (and different from) the sum of its parts!!!

  2. Family Facts and Forecasts • Half the marriages this year in the U.S. will probably end in divorce • Divorce rates are likely to be higher when a marriage is preceded by a premarital pregnancy • Age of the spouses at the time of first marriage is highly related to the divorce rate (those under 20 are two to three times more likely to divorce than those who marry in their 20s. • Married couples are divorcing earlier than ever before (38% within four years of marriage, 50% within seven years) • Because of early divorces, younger children are more and more likely to be affected by divorce.

  3. Family Facts and Forecasts • More than one out of four children in the U.S. is now born to an unwed mother. The number of teenage unwed mothers in the US is at an all time high. • Today’s unwed teenage mother is opting increasingly to keep her child. • Never-married single women--especially those over 35, educated, and economically self-sufficient--are having children out of wedlock at an increasing rate • About one in four children live with a single parent. • More than two of every three children under 6 has a mother who is employed outside the home. • More than half the people in the US have belonged or will belong to a stepfamily at some period in their lives.

  4. Family Tasks (Harvey & Wexler, 1996) • Daily living tasks: obtaining and preparing food; cleaning, repairing, improving family possessions; child care and socialization of dependent children; care for the sick and elderly • Family leadership functions: giving direction to family development; held by one person or shared over time • Cohesiveness-building functions: developing family rituals and traditions, stories, secrets, and rules for everyday living and coping with crises. • Development of a family value system: setting expectations for family member behavior--a hierarchy of goals.

  5. From a contemporary perspective, it no longer makes sense to refer to a typical American family. We must consider various types of families, with diverse organizational patterns, styles of living, and living arrangements. The idealized American nuclear family depicts a carefree, white family with a suburban residence, sole provider father, and homemaker mother. Both parents are dedicated to child rearing and remain together for life; children are educated at a neighborhood school and attend church with their family on Sunday; plenty of money and supportive grandparents are available…….of course this is stuff of TELEVISION!!!

  6. Counselors working from a systems-perspective view clients’ disturbed behavior as representative of a system that is faulty and not due to individual deficit or deficiency. The client’s difficulties might then be viewed more accurately as signaling a social system in disequilibrium!!!

  7. Systems Theory • Family members are studied in terms of their interactions and not merely their intrinsic personal characteristics. • Every event within a family is multiply determined by all the forces operating within that system. • Circular causality emphasizes that problems are not the result of a linear, cause-and-effect process brought about by some primary factor. Rather, problematic behavior results from mistaken or dysfunctional interaction patterns that develop between people in a mutually reinforcing manner and, thereby, serve to maintain the problem rather than change it.

  8. Family theories provide tools for expanding school counselors and other counselors expand their default thinking to include a family based framework.

  9. Systems Theory • Family members are studied in terms of their interactions and not merely their intrinsic personal characteristics. • Every event within a family is multiply determined by all the forces operating within that system. • Circular causality emphasizes that problems are not the result of a linear, cause-and-effect process brought about by some primary factor. Rather, problematic behavior results from mistaken or dysfunctional interaction patterns that develop between people in a mutually reinforcing manner and, thereby, serve to maintain the problem rather than change it.

  10. Systems Theory Example • A female client indicated that her problem with shyness is that she simply is not attractive. At first the counselor decided to intervene with this client by implementing “typical” self-esteem exercises. However, upon further exploration the counselor realized that the client’s parents have repeatedly indicated that she is not “as pretty as her older sister.”

  11. Properties of Systems • Movement in one component of a system has an effect on all other components of the system • Systems have subsystems or microsystems that are affected by the larger system and vice versa. • Subsystems refer to groupings of people who are within the system yet who have relational boundaries that set them apart. • An element of a system may be affected, or changed, by beginning with any component of a system. This means that individual problems have various pathways along which a solution may be sought. This process is often referred to as equifinality.

  12. Properties of Systems • The boundaries within systems and subsystems are either enmeshed or disengaged. Boundaries determine who participates and how, and where the authority lies. Enmeshment and disengagement are not healthy but are merely relationship styles

  13. Enmeshment and Disengagement • Enmeshment is when the boundaries are too permeable and family members become over-involved and entwined in one another’s lives (opening each other’s mail, knowing each other’s secrets, being continually attuned to each other feelings) • Disengagement involves overly rigid boundaries, with family members sharing a home but operating as separate units, with little interaction, exchange of feelings, or sense of connection to one another. Little support, concern, or family loyalty is evident in disengaged families.

  14. Counselors who work from a “family counseling or systems perspective” explore dysfunctional family relationships and attempt to shift the balance so that new forms of relating become possible, with the goal of problem resolution.Counselors, then, help families get “unstuck.”

  15. Systems Theory and School CounselingA family is in crisis. Bonnie is a 14 year old girl who is referred to the school counselor because she is refusing to eat. The school counselor finds out that Bonnie is also having trouble with her peers (even though her grades are very good). Her mom has just been promoted and now earns more than her husband, who is a truck driver. Husband and wife are fighting a great deal. Bonnie’s mom reports that she has come home with “pot” on her breath. The parents scolded her. The parents are very upset, however, that she is not eating. In this Italian family, food is very important. The counselor concludes that the more the parents focus on Bonnie, the less tension is felt by the parents’ fighting. Thus, the symptom (Bonnie’s eating) emerges as the point of family crisis and is maintained by the system.

  16. Bowen believed that changes in the family system impact the individual, and that changes in the individual influence the family.

  17. Types of Families • Nuclear Family represents a two generation system consisting of a marital couple (i.e., parental subsystem) or a single parent/grandparent and their children (i.e., the sibling subsystem). • Extended Family is an extended system which includes other generations extended in at least two directions, upward or downward in the “family tree.” Extended families can include aunts, uncles, cousins, great aunts, and second cousins. • Blended Family is one in which two different nuclear family systems join to form a new family system.

  18. Carter and McGoldrick’s (1988)Six Stages of Family Life Development • Single young adults--leaving home • The new couple • Families with young children • Families with adolescents • Launching children and moving on • Families in later life

  19. There are developmental models for understanding how family units change over time. Although most development models have significant cultural and heterosexual biases, it is generally understood that families develop from a couple relationship to a family system that involves children.

  20. Single Young Adults--Leaving Home • Disconnection and reconnection with one’s family on a different level while simultaneously establishing one’s self as a person. • Striking a balance between a career and/or marriage ambitions • Desire for personal autonomy • Overcoming internal and external pressures to marry

  21. The New Couple • Idealization • Adjustment and adaptation • Most likely stage of divorce due to an inability of individuals to resolve differences • Greatest amount of satisfaction, too! • Financial and time constraints are the two main limitations.

  22. Families with Young Children • Change (e.g., physical, psychological, emotional) associated with the arrival of child. • The family becomes unbalanced, at least temporarily. • Relationships with extended family are adjusted. • Work/career and leisure demands are adjusted.

  23. Families with Adolescents • “Sandwich generation”: adults in these families often are “squeezed” in between taking care of themselves, their teenagers, and aging parents. • Most active and exciting times in the family cycle. • Families often have trouble setting limits, defining relationships, and taking adequate care of one another. • Tension between parents and adolescents is common. Reasons for tensions: distinction between what parents want for their youngsters and what youngsters want for themselves, desire for autonomy (adolescent); influence of peer groups; parental influence decreases • Parents too are experiencing change due to the aging process.

  24. Children Leave Home • “Empty nest syndrome”: couples without child rearing responsbilities. • The number of couples in this stage is increasing in the U.S. • Couples must rediscover each other and fun together. Some are unsuccessful and marriages end. • Women who have mainly defined themselves as mothers may experience depression, despondency, and divorce may occur. • Men may focus on their physical bodies, marriages, and occupational aspirations. Research has not focused much on men during this period and therefore little data is available.

  25. The Family Later in Life • These families are composed of a couple who are in the final years of employment or who are in retirement (65 years and up) • Major concerns are finances, health,mental illness, and loss of spouse. • Psychopathology increases with age, particularly organic brain disease and functional disorders such as depression, anxiety, and paranoid states. Suicide also rises with age, with the highest rate among elderly white men. • Grandparenting is an advantage of the aging family.

  26. Variables that Affect Life Cycle • Ethnicity: culture and ethnic background can influence the life cycle and important milestones in a family’s development. For instance, transitions from childhood to adulthood are symbolized differently among cultures. • Illness and/or Disability: the onset, duration and outcome of illness or disability can disrupt a family’s cycle. • Substance Abuse: families of addicts are often stuck in a life cycle that promotes dependency of the young and a false sense of identity. They become competent within a framework of incompetence. • Poverty: families in poverty are more dependent on kin and are maternal-headed. Continuing poverty some times pushes fathers away from their children.

  27. Defining the Healthy Family • Family roles are known to all in the family and may change over the course of time. • Degree of elasticity and adaptability in family roles. • Healthy families are mature families (Satir). Mature families consist of parents/guardians who communicate clearly, directly, and honestly. • Healthy families develop flexible rules which govern family behavior, but are subject to change (Satir) • Healthy families have well-defined hierarchies of power and status (Minuchin) • Healthy families consist of strong and satisfying marriages/adult relationships.

  28. Family’s Provide Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs • Physical and life sustaining needs (need for food, water, air, warmth, sexual gratification, elimination of body wastes, and so on) • Physical Safety (need for protection from physical attack and disease) • Love (need to be cherished, supported, aided by others) • Self-Esteem (need to have a sense of personal worth and value, to respect and value one’s self) • Self-Actualization (need to be creative and productive and to attain worthwhile objectives)

  29. Levels of Family Needs • Level I: • Families who need essential requisites for survival and well-being (food, shelter, protection from danger, health care, and minimums of nurturance) • Families at this level have experienced crises (e.g., job loss, major illness) • Families at this level lack leadership and structure. • Families at this level have indistinct boundaries among members

  30. Level I Intervention • Build on basic strengths and resilience • Focus on resources • Mobilize support for the parental system (e.g., church groups, community agencies, extended family) • Reframe and highlight meanings in stress and distress (“survivor’s pride”) • Be an advocate, role model, convener!

  31. Cassie, a sixth grader, came to the attention of the school counselor after she was identified for extensive absences. Cassie has missed 20 of the last 40 days of school. Through the counselor’s discussions with teachers and Cassie, she discovers that Cassie’s family is homeless and lives out of a station wagon parked at a nearby park. Cassie’s father is an alcoholic and her mother is disabled.What would your first intervention be?Second intervention?Third?

  32. Level of Family Need • Level II: • Issues related to maintaining authority and setting limits are prominent • Parental subsystem is unable to set and maintain sufficient limits for one or more family members • There is either a lack of clear expectations or a lack of power to enforce expectations • Children are often out of control, acting out • Parents might be involved in substance abuse • Violence in the family may be present

  33. Level II Intervention • Focus on strengths, resilience, and resources. • Structure meetings with families, particularly parents; Modeling “structure” for parents is important. • Meet with parents consistently in order to develop a coalition of those in charge versus those in need of control. • Parent education (e.g., social learning skills, behavioral topics) and support groups could be helpful for these families (e.g., parents)

  34. Joel is a 10-year old 4th grader who was referred to the counselor for disruptive classroom behavior (e.g., not raising his hand to speak, pushing children, not completing class work). Joel has also been suspended from riding the bus because of his misbehavior. Joel’s mother is single and works in D.C. The mother’s boyfriend is living temporarily with Joel and his mother. After school, Joel is not supervised and the mother has refused to attend parent teacher conferences. How should the counselor intervene?

  35. Level III • Rich mixture of coping mechanisms are present, but are often faulty or “unhealthy.” • Control in these families might be absolute, with little or no negotiation. • Issues related to clear and appropriate boundaries are prevalent.

  36. Level III Interventions • Reshaping the internal processes of the family • Challenging the existing family structure and confront the family’s tendency to remain in current patterns of behavior. • Examination of communication and power structures around the presenting problem may be useful. • Family counseling and therapy are “real” options for these families

  37. George and Hilary have two children, George Jr. (17) and Tasha (12). George Jr has become very negative at home and his grades are low. His parents fear that he is involved with drugs and a violent group of boys. There are no concerns about Tasha at this time. Hilary (the mom) is quiet and is overly involved with Tasha, but appears to be bonded with George Jr. George Sr. (dad) is a firefighter and is rarely at home and when he is at home, he has little contact with the children. George Sr. and Hilary’s relationship is tension-ridden and George uses an authoritarian style of parenting.George Sr.’s father and mother are overly involved with their son’s family. George Sr.’s parents live next door and use an authoritarian style of communication with their son and daughter in law.As a counselor working with this family, what might you do?

  38. Level IV • Desire for greater intimacy, greater sense of self, or more autonomy. • Goal is to live more fully and grow toward actualization of each member’s potential. • Issues such as inner conflicts, intimacy, self-realization, insight, and spiritual yearnings are the focus.

  39. Level IV Interventions • Genograms extending over three or four (or more) generations are useful to highlight transgenerational patterns. • Family sculpting • Narrative interventions and rewriting one’s story • Object relations therapy (psychoanalytic) for those who want more insight into patterns. • Focus on values, meanings, and spirituality. Referrals to church-related counseling centers might be appropriate.

  40. Kelly R., a married mother of 2 children (10th and 12 grade) at your school, comes to your office to discuss her son’s college aspirations. During your conference with the mother, she reports that her mother passed away last year and she has not been “herself.” Reading between the lines, you realize that she seems despondent and depressed. She admits that she is afraid of her son leaving home for college and that she is in need of “restructuring” her life. Discuss this client in terms of intervention strategies.

  41. Focus on strengths rather than deficits and focus on solutions rather than problems!!!

  42. Intervention Choices • Behavioral/Interactional Choices: what people do, their actions, etc. Social skills training and strategic/structural activities may be used. • Experiential Choices: makes use of cognition, affect, communication, and interpersonal relationships. Individual, group, or family counseling may be used. • Historical Choices: what happened in the past. Family of origin work and psychodynamic methods are used. Psychotherapy may be used.

  43. Major Concepts of the Ecosystems Perspective (Germain & Gitterman, 1995) • Reciprocal Exchanges: transactions between the person and his/her environment; these transactions shape and influence each other over time • Life Stress: positive or negative person-environment relationship • Coping: special adaptations that are made in a response to stress. • Habitat: where a person or family lives • Niche: the result of one’s accommodation to the environment; refers to the status that is occupied by a member of the community • Relatedness: based on attachment theory; refers to emotional closeness or isolation • Adaptations: changing the environment to allow for meeting the physical and psychological needs of an individual or family

  44. Family Systems View: Key Assumptions • Wholeness: change in one part of system will cause change in other parts • Feedback: families are regulated by feedback loops or inputs from family members • Equifinality: the same result may be reached from different beginnings • Circular Causality: systems are constantly modified by recursive circular feedback from multiple sources within and outside of the system.

  45. Social Constructionist Metatheory • Relativism regarding all meanings; there is no “reality”;meanings are constructed by participants • Emphasis is on meanings rather than actions; from expertise to collaboration; from diagnosis to problems to mutual creation of solutions • Nonhierarchical relationships in family are OK.

  46. Partnering with Families and Communities • Difference between professional learning community and school learning community. • Professional learning community emphasizes the teamwork of principals, teachers, staff, (or agency director, counselors, staff) to improve curriculum and instruction, assess student progress and increase effectiveness. • School learning community includes educators, students, parents, and community partners (stakeholders) who work together to improve the school and enhance students’ learning opportunities.

  47. Partnering with Families and Communities • One component of a school learning community is an organized program of school, family, and community partnerships with activities linked to school goals. These programs, research shows, increase student achievement, strengthen families, invigorate community support, and improve schools.

  48. Six Types of Involvement • Parenting • Communicating • Volunteering • Learning at Home • Decision Making • Collaborating with the Community

  49. Action Teams • Create an Action Team • Obtain funding and other support • Identify starting points • Develop 3 year outline and a one year action plan • Continue planning and working