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Family Assessment

Self-report Questionnaires

Questionnaires may be completed at home, in a school or college classroom, or in a waiting room. (For example, the Family Adaptability and Cohesion Evaluation Scale [FACES III: Gorall and Olson 1995; Olson 1986], the McMaster Family Assessment Device [FAD: Epstein, Baldwin, and Bishop 1983], the Family Environment Scale [FES: Moos and Moss 1994], and the Self-Report Family Inventory [SFI: Beavers and Hampson 1995; Hampson, Hulgus, and Beavers 1991].)

Questionnaires have been created to assess a wide variety of family dimensions including:

  • Family cohesion: Items that refer to the degree of emotional bonding, closeness, and togetherness. For example, "There is closeness in my family but each person is allowed to be special and different." Responses to sentences may lead to hypotheses about whether the family is perceived as disengaged, separated, connected, or enmeshed.
  • Family flexibility/adaptability: Items that refer to the amount of or degree of change occurring in family leadership, role relationships, and relationship rules especially under stress. For example, "It is hard to know who is the leader in my family." Answers may lead to hypotheses about whether the family is perceived as rigid, structured, flexible, or chaotic.
  • Family problem solving: Items that refer to the ability to resolve both instrumental and affective issues to the level that maintains effective family functioning. For example, "We argue a lot and never solve problems."
  • Family roles: Items that refer to the current or changing roles and patterns of behavior that facilitate family functioning, including those that meet basic needs, that designate responsibilities for household tasks, maintain appropriate family boundaries, provide nurturance to family members, and assess the existence of alliances and coalitions in the family. For example, "We usually blame one person in our family when things aren't going right."
  • Affective responsiveness: Items that refer to the family's ability to experience and express an appropriate range, quantity, and quality of feeling. For example, "Family members pay attention to each other's feelings."
  • Affective involvement: Items that refer to the extent to which family members are perceived to be interested, be concerned, and to value each other. For example, "In our home, we feel loved."
  • Behavior control: Items that refer to the perceived rules and standards for behavior maintained by the family for all its members. For example, "It is hard to know what the rules are in our family because they always change."
  • Family conflict: Items that refer to the presence of stressful encounters and styles and strategies for resolving them. For example, "When things go wrong we blame each other."
  • Family warmth: Items that refer to the overt and explicit presence and expression of affection and nurturance. For example, "Our family members touch and hug each other."
  • Communication: Items that refer to listening and speaking skills with each other including variations in the clarity and directness of messages in both instrumental and affective exchanges of information among family members. For example, "Family members pay attention to each other and listen to what is said."
  • Overall family functioning: Items that ask for a global assessment of the family's ability to accomplish its basic everyday tasks across domains. For example, "On a scale of 1–5, I would rate my family as (1) My family functions very well together . . . (5) My family does not function well together at all. We really need help."

Questionnaires may be completed twice, first with the instructions "Describe your family now" and then "Ideally, how would you like your family to be." The discrepancy between scores has been used as an indicator of satisfaction and the reduction of the discrepancy as an indicator of successful intervention (Gorall and Olson 1995). Scoring of responses can also allow the assessor to place the family into different categories or typologies, for example, centrifugal or centripetal; balanced or unbalanced; severely disturbed, borderline, midrange, adequate, optimal (Beavers and Hampson 1990) or rigidly enmeshed or flexibly connected (Olson 1993). Different family members may view the family differently and these differences may need to be confronted during interventions.

Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaFamily Theory & Types of FamiliesFamily Assessment - Why A Family Assessment?, What, Where, And How Of Family Assessment, Selection Of Assessment Methods