Limitations And Cautions
The multitude of empirical methods and ratings made from standardized family assessments has increased our understanding of important dimensions of family life. Using the results of standardized theoretically and empirically based methods of assessment to determine and implement specific interventions is difficult but ongoing (Beavers and Hampson 1990; Olson, Russell, and Sprenkle 1989; Snyder et al. 1995).
Caution is always needed in interpreting information from the use of any method of assessment when families are from different structures (e.g., single parent, gay, lesbian, foster, or blended families) and cultures, especially applying norms derived from assessment of families in majority cultures and from traditional families. Although questionnaires have been translated into languages other than English and completed by persons of various cultures (Olson 1995), observation, description, and empirical scoring of family life across different cultures has not received equal attention.
Assessors must become as knowledgeable as possible of the values and attitudes unique to the family being encountered and informed of their individual life histories, family traditions, and culture—before and even during the assessment. For example, such variables may affect willingness and ease of parents' talking about family (and any marital) matters with the children present, discussing family secrets, accepting the advice from someone from another culture or religion, or accepting the need for the family to change. Behavioral scientists and therapists have become increasingly aware that each family must be viewed as "a unique system and assessed and treated with regard to its unique conditions and relationships" (Olson 1995, p. 231).
The diversity of family life across communities and nations and the importance of understanding culture and minority status has increasingly affected judgments about family structure and dynamics, family psychopathology, and family therapy (Boyd-Franklin 1989; Flores and Carey 2000; McGoldrick, Giordano, and Pearce 1996; Pedersen 1997; Szapocznik and Kurtines 1993).
Empirical study of the similarities and differences of diverse families across the multitude of the world's cultures will lead to greater understanding of human and social development and provide clearer guidelines for those attempting to change family life and educate those who will become parents.
See also: FAMILY DIAGNOSIS/DSM-IV; FAMILY DIAGRAMMATIC ASSESSMENT: ECOMAP; FAMILY DIAGRAMMATIC ASSESSMENT: GENOGRAM; RESEARCH: FAMILY MEASUREMENT; THERAPY: FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS; THERAPY: PARENT-CHILD RELATIONSHIPS
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GARY E. STOLLAK