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Family Strengths

The Qualities Of Strong Families

A number of different conceptions of family strengths, positive family traits, or models of normal family functioning have been proposed (Beavers and Hampson 1990; Curran 1983; Epstein et al. 1993; Krysan, Moore, and Zill 1990; Olson 1996; Stinnett and DeFrain 1985; Stinnett and Sauer 1977). Each model is unique, and this derives from the fact that family strengths and other positive family interaction models are conceptual frameworks. Though the models are derived from observations of real families around the world, the models are subjective constructions based on the perceptions of the researchers and family members. Nevertheless, it is important to point out that the similarities among models of family strengths are more apparent than the differences (Krysan, Moore, and Zill 1990; Olson and DeFrain 2000).

In the same vein, researchers around the world have found remarkable similarities in families in different cultures. Families that describe themselves as strong commonly share a number of broad qualities or traits. What is significant is not how different strong families are in the global community, but how similar they tend to be. In short, people are people, and families are families (Casas et al. 1984; DeFrain, DeFrain, and Lepard 1994; Geggie et al. 2000; Xie et al. 1996).

The Family Strengths Model proposes six clusters of qualities that describe strong families (Stinnett and DeFrain 1985; DeFrain 1999):

  • Appreciation and affection. People in strong families deeply care for one another, and they let each other know this on a regular basis. They are not afraid to express their love.
  • Commitment. Members of strong families are dedicated to one another's well-being, investing time and energy in family activities and not letting their work or other priorities take too much time away from family interaction.
  • Positive communication. Successful families are often task-oriented in their communication, identifying problems and discussing FIGURE 1
    The Chinese symbol for crisis, a composite of the pictographs for danger and opportunity, suggests that crisis is a time to look for new opportunities.
    how to solve them together. Perhaps even more important than this, however, is that strong families spend time talking with and listening to one another just to stay connected. Some of the most important talk occurs when no one is working at connection: open-ended, rambling conversations can reveal important information which helps smooth out the bumps of family life.
  • Enjoyable time together. One study of 1,500 schoolchildren asked, "What do you think makes a happy family?" Few replied that money, cars, fancy homes, television sets, or Disney World made a happy family. Most children said that a happy family is one that does things together, and that genuinely enjoys the times family members share with each other.
  • Spiritual well-being. Perhaps the most controversial finding of the family strengths researchers is the importance of religion or spirituality in strong families. We use the phrase spiritual well-being to describe this concept to indicate that it can include organized religion, but not necessarily. People in strong families describe this concept in a variety of ways: some talk about faith in God, hope, or a sense of optimism in life; some say they feel a oneness with the world. Others talk about their families in almost religious terms, describing the love they feel for one another with a great deal of reverence. Others express these kinds of feelings in terms of ethical values and commitment to important causes. Spiritual well-being can be seen as the caring center within each individual that promotes sharing, love, and compassion. It is a feeling or force that helps people transcend themselves and their dayto-day stressors, and focus on that which is sacred to them in life.
  • Successful management of stress and crisis. Strong families are not immune to stress and crisis, but they are not as crisis-prone as troubled families tend to be. Rather, they possess the ability to manage both daily stressors and difficult life crises creatively and effectively. They know how to prevent trouble before it happens, and how to work together to meet the inevitable challenges when they occur. (See Figure 1.)

All of the family strengths are interconnected, and are impossible to separate. What unites the strengths is that each is founded upon a sense of positive emotional connection. People in strong families feel good about each other and genuinely care for each other's well-being.


Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaFamily Theory & Types of FamiliesFamily Strengths - The Family Strengths Perspective, The Qualities Of Strong Families, Family Strengths And Universal Values