and the Family
Topic 16 - Family Crises
Family Crises of various kinds which
down to the management of normally stressful events in our lives, as
as very disturbing kinds of dysfunctions. First of all, there is a
saying: "If it ain't broke - Don't
fix it!" Most Families live long and relatively happy lives without
suffering series of extremely disturbing events.
However, there is another saying: "Bad things happen to Good
people all the time!" Sadness and disappointment are as much a part
of life as
and getting our way about things.
Stress = tension resulting from depleted family resources - an
that must be corrected.
Stressors = those life events or changes that are so serious or drastic
that they require changes in the family system EX: Death of a
financial crisis, unemployment.
- Distress = extreme psychological pressure resulting from
/ unenjoyable challenges.
- Eustress = extreme psychological pressure resulting from
/ beneficial challenges
Imagine how stress you are going
when you finish college and
out to the professional job market with your brand new B.A. in your
People are expecting things from you. Maybe you are also planning
to solidify that romance you've been having
into a marriage, so there's the wedding and all that! And you
find that your mother is being difficult over your dad's insistence
on wearing Bermuda shorts to the reception! That's one kind of pressure
build-up - nothing bad, just things.
Now imagine that your father is
diagnosed with a serious medical
your brother is in jail on a drug charge, your little sister is
on running away from home, and you find out your fiancé is
else. It all depends on your family system.
Daily Events (A) are Critical (X)
they are perceived to:
- 1. create a hardship greater than family resources can
- 2. are perceived by the family as critical
As events unfold, the family
monitors its ability to cope
with its resources. If events move beyond the family's ability to cope,
a crisis results.
sources, but in any case, they are closely
linked with stressful events and/or behavior.
Reuben Hill developed the ABCX family crisis model in trying to
account for differential success in coping. In essence, A is the
stressor event and the hardships it produces. B is the management
of the stress through coping resources that the family has. Since an
important aspect of the impact of stress is the way in which the
stressful situation is defined, C refers to the family’s definition of
the event. A, B, and C interact to produce X, the crisis. McCubbin and
Patterson later proposed a Double ABCX model, in which they relabeled
the A factor as family demands. There are three components to family
demands: the stressor, the hardships that accompany the stressor, and
the pileups, or residuals of family tension. There are numerous
commonplace tensions and strains in most of our lives.
Stressor events per se
sufficient to cause serious problems. The context in which the
event occurs, the way that the family defines
the event, and the resources the family has for dealing with it
are all crucial to the outcome.
- There are different types of stressor events. The stressor
arise from within or outside the family; it can be expected or
unpredictable, controllable or uncontrollable.
- The kinds of things most likely to be important stressors
somewhat over the family life cycle. During the early
childbearing years, financial strains are the most common. Time
demands are frequently the source of strain.
- Not all stressors are equal. In spite of varying reactions,
we look at how large numbers of people respond to stressors, we
can rank order the varied stressors in terms of severity. The
Family Inventory of Life Events and Changes (FILE) is one effort
to identify the severity. The most severe stressors involve
death, divorce, violence, and illness; the least severe are such
things as the purchase of an automobile or other major items.
abuse ranks high on the list of family
Alcohol abuse is the improper use of alcohol such that the consequences
are detrimental to the user and the family. It is the abuse - not
merely the use - of alcohol that creates problems. Alcohol abuse
seriously detracts from the quality of family life. In many families,
particularly when the abuse is long-term, there are negative
consequences whether or not the abuser is drinking. In addition, the
spouses and children of the abusers may develop various physical and
emotional problems. The children of alcoholics tend to describe their
families as less cohesive and more conflict-ridden than do children
from other families. When the children become adults, their past
experience in an alcoholic home can continue to trouble them. If
alcohol abuse can lead to family problems, family problems can also
lead to alcohol abuse. Moreover, alcohol abuse can take its toll across
a number of generations.
Next to death, separation, and
divorce, family violence is the most
difficult experience people have to cope with.
- If the bright side of intimate relationships is their
for enhancing our well- being, the dark side is their potential for
destruction because of physical and verbal abuse.
- If we define violence to include mild forms as spanking,
majority of parents use some form of violence against their children. A
prototype of the abusive parent would be one who is single, young
(around thirty or less), and has been married for fewer than ten years,
had his or her first child before the age of eighteen, and is
unemployed or employed part-time.
- Incest is a special form of child abuse and involves any
exploitative sexual contact between relatives in which the victim is
under eighteen years of age. Overall, about one in seven
Americans report that he or she was sexually abused as a child.
Father-daughter incest is far more common than mother-son incest.
- The term spouse abuse is likely to conjure up the image of
beating a woman. Abuse is more than physical, and verbal abuse can be
as damaging as physical abuse. Verbal aggression appears to be equally
divided between men and women. Women may have values and attitudes that
override the physical and emotional damage they are enduring.
- Although most of the attention has been focused on child
spouse abuse, researchers have discovered that children also abuse
their parents. Abuse of elderly parents may also occur at the hands of
their adult children.
- In the short-term, abuse involves serious physical and
damage, but abuse also tends to have serious long-term consequences.
Witnessing violence as well as being victimized by it has harmful
consequences. Whatever the type of crisis faced, different families
will have somewhat different reactions.
Whatever a person does in the face of a crisis is a coping pattern. Even if a person
does nothing, that is one way of trying to cope. There are
ineffective coping patterns. “Ineffective” means that it is not a
pattern that typically will yield long-term, constructive outcomes.
- Denial is perhaps the most common of the ineffective
patterns and is a defense mechanism in which people will not
believe what they observe.
- Admitting the existence of a problem is not
sometimes, people acknowledge that the problem exists, but they
avoid confronting and dealing with it. Avoidance can be used in
any kind of crisis. Like denial, avoidance is not always a
dysfunctional way of coping.
- Sometimes people admit a problem but feel that they
find someone or something to blame. They select a family scapegoat to
bear the brunt of the responsibility for the problem. Scapegoating,
unlike denial and avoidance, is not even useful in the short run.
A family is most likely to cope
effectively with problems or crises
when the members have worked together to develop certain family
strengths. The family that has developed strengths is likely to be a
resilient family, one that can resist disruption in the face of change
and cope effectively with crises.
There are different tools that
use in effective coping.
Generalizations about Family
- In contrast to denial, avoidance, and Scapegoating,
coping begins when people take responsibility for themselves and their
- In a crisis, people may have to remind themselves that they
their families are also people with strengths and the capacity to
cope effectively. People must affirm their own self worth and their
- People must balance self-concern with other-concerns.
- People must learn the art of reframing, which refers to
redefining the meaning of something–it is a way of changing one’s
perspective on a situation.
- Family members must find and use available resources,
all of the family strengths previously discussed. Using available
resources along with other coping strategies can enable families
to emerge from a crisis at a higher level of functioning than it
enjoyed before the crisis.
- - Adversity may increase family solidarity
- - Flexibility in shifting roles can strengthen
members and the family as a group.
- - Quick adjustments to crisis do not allow closure of
or final adjustments (growth)
Strategies for Coping with Any
- 1. Active exploration of the problem.
- 2. Open and free expression of both positive and negative
- 3. Active seeking for help and advice. 4. Breaking down the
into manageable parts.
- 5. Maintaining awareness of exhaustion and replenishment.
- 6. Preserving basic trust.