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Family Strengths

The Family Strengths Perspective, The Qualities Of Strong Families, Family Strengths And Universal Values


"Nothing in the world could make human life happier than to greatly increase the number of strong families," according to David R. Mace (1985). Family strengths are those relationship qualities that contribute to the emotional health and well-being of the family. Families who define themselves as strong commonly say they love each other, find life together satisfying, and live in happiness and harmony with each other.

Professionals who study families do so for many reasons. Perhaps the most important reason is to help us learn how to get along better with each other in what has been described as our basic social institution and our most intimate environment.

Much of the research on families in the twentieth century focused on family problems in an effort to answer the question, "Why do families fail?" From a family strengths perspective, it is important to also look at families who are doing well in life, and find answers to the question, "How do families succeed?"

Mace was one of the founders of the marriage enrichment movement in Great Britain and the United States. He believed that the study of successful families could yield important knowledge in the quest to help make human life happier by increasing the number of strong families in the world. After researchers have identified the qualities that make families strong, educators can then proceed to develop educational programs for teaching and learning about family strengths. Family therapists can create therapeutic intervention strategies so that family members can develop strengths in their relationships with each other. Family policy makers can design government policies and programs that enhance family well-being rather than diminish it. And family members themselves can put their own very personal approaches to building family strengths in practice in their daily lives together.

Over the years researchers, clinicians, and laypersons have used many different terms to describe families who are doing well together in life: strong families, emotionally healthy families, balanced families, happy families, families with strengths, successful families, optimally functioning families, good families, resilient families, harmonious families, and others. Though the terminology used may differ, the basic notion is that these families believe they are functioning well together, and are satisfied with their relationships with each other.

Researchers studying strong families commonly adopt both "insider" and "outsider" perspectives for their studies. Families who believe they are doing well (the "insiders") are asked to volunteer for a study which measures their strengths; researchers (the "outsiders"), after careful assessment of the family through the process of interviews, observations, and questionnaire data, come to their own conclusions about the family's strengths. Both perspectives are derived from essentially subjective processes.


Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaFamily Theory & Types of Families