Family Developmental Theory

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Family Developmental Theory
Historical Development

• Family developmental theory is an approach to studying families, which is useful in explaining patterned change, the dynamic nature of the family, and how change occurs in the family life cycle.

• The roots of family developmental theory date back to the 1930s from works of sociologists, economists, and demographers who established family categories (which were the precursors to the stages of development

• From the mid 1940s to the early 1950s, theorists such as Paul Glick, Evelyn Duvall, Reuben Hill, and Rachel Ann Edwards contributed to a more sophisticated developmental approach.

• Since the 1950s, family developmental theory has been used to explain the processes observed in families over time.

Family Developmental Theory evolved in three phases

Phase I – Theorists Focused on the Family Life Cycle
• Process of birth, growth, maintenance, shrinkage and death

Phase II - contemporary theory – Theorists Focused on Roles and Relationships within the family • Family is composed of social roles and relationships that change with each stage of the family Phase III – Theorists critique the theory

• Look at the limitations and strengths of the framework. • One criticism is that the framework is biased towards intact nuclear families, only one of many different types of family structures Major Constructs

• Family developmental theory includes two basic concepts 1. the life cycle
▪ The family life cycle divides the family experiences into stages over the life span and describes changes in family structure and roles during each stage. 2. Developmental task.

▪ Developmental tasks are the growth responsibilities that arise at certain stages in the life of the family. • To be successful, family members need to adapt to changing needs and demands and to attend to tasks that are necessary to ensure family survival. Definitions

• Family life cycle – Set of predictable steps or patterns and developmental tasks families experience over time. o The family life cycle concept facilitates studying the family from beginning to end.

• Family stage – A time period in the life of a family that has a unique structure. o For example consider Duvall’s Stages of the Family Life Cycle, Families with preschool children

• Transition – The shift from one family stage to another o Consider the Intact Family Life Cycle. The transition, for example, from Families with Adolescence to Launching Children is what occurs in the family as all members make the adjustment.


• Not age that matters, but the stage in family development

• Individual Development is important, but development of group of interacting individuals is most important

• Developmental processes are inevitable and important in understanding families

o Growth from one stage to another is going to happen.

o Families and individuals change over a period of time. They progress through a series of similar developmental stages and face similar transition points and developmental tasks.

o To understand the family we must consider the challenges they face in each stage, how well they resolve them, but how well they transition to the next stage.

o The success or difficulty of achieving the developmental tasks in each stage leads to readiness for the next stage or difficulty in later stages.

o The family is dynamic and we analyze how well they master tasks at each stage of development.

• The ability to view the dynamic nature of the family over long periods of time • The ease of understanding the stages and developmental tasks and the challenges families have to face

• Lack of ability to account for different family forms, and gender,...
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