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Family Assessment

Focused Interviews And Discussion Tasks

Focused interviews are designed to obtain information about specific issues of interest. The whole family may be asked to fill out the questionnaire together—after or instead of individual completions—to come up with one family answer to each of the items, and then asked, as a whole, to provide details of events that led to the family answer. Similar kinds of information may also be obtained by having every family member complete a child behavior checklist with respect to a specific child—including individual administration to a child too young to read. The family is then asked, as a whole, to come up with one answer for each sentence and then to discuss specific events leading to the family answer. Again, differences in perceptions of child behavior and its possible causes, correlates, and consequences may become the focus of interventions.

Focused family interviews may also be conducted by behavioral scientists to obtain information related to theoretically important dimensions related to child and family development and not necessarily related to possible child or family problems. For example, to assess family cohesion and family flexibility the family may be asked to discuss such general issues as time, space, friends, and interests; what a typical day, evening, or week is like; how they handle their daily routines; and family strengths (Epstein, Baldwin, and Bishop 1982; Hayden et al. 1998; Thomas and Olson 1993). More clinically relevant, a family may be asked to identify what they believe to be the most important problems for their family from among a list of common areas of conflict (e.g., bedtime, homework, television, chores, allowances, sibling or peer fighting, drinking, or school). From these lists, the assessor could choose the highest-ranking area of conflict that all members identify as a problem for their family. The family is then asked to discuss this problem and attempt to come to a solution. Many of the discussion tasks are similar to those described by Michael S. Robbins and his colleagues (2001):

  • "Each of you tell about the things everyone does in the family: the things that please you the most and make you feel good, and also the things each one does that make you unhappy or mad. Everyone try to give her or his own ideas about this. Go ahead."
  • "In every family things happen that cause a fuss now and then. Discuss and talk together about an argument you had, a fight or argument at home that you can remember. Talk together about it, like what started it, who was in on it. See if you can remember what it was all about. Take your time. Go ahead."
  • "Suppose all of you had to work out a menu for dinner tonight and would all like to have your favorite foods for dinner, but you can only have one meat, two vegetables, one drink, and one dessert. Talk together about it, but you must decide on one meal you would all enjoy and that has one meat, two vegetables, one drink, and one dessert. Remember you must end up agreeing on just one meal that everyone would enjoy. Okay, go ahead."

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