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Family Stress Management

Family Stress Management
A Contextual Approach

Third Edition

August 2016 | 224 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc
Why do some families survive stressful situations while others fall apart? Can a family’s beliefs and values be used as a predictor of vulnerability to stress? And most importantly, can family stress be prevented?

The Third Edition of Family Stress Management continues its original commitment to recognize both the external and internal contexts in which distressed families find themselves. With its hallmark Contextual Model of Family Stress (CMFS), the Third Edition provides practitioners and researchers with a useful framework to understand and help distressed individuals, couples, and families. The example of a universal stressor—a death in the family—highlights cultural differences in ways of coping. Throughout, there is new emphasis on diversity and the nuances of family stress management—such as ambiguous loss—plus new discussions on family resilience and community as resources for support.
About the Authors
Chapter 1- Family Stress: An Overview
Defining Family Stress

Defining Family

An Example of Diversity in Family Structure: Grandparents Parenting Grandchildren

What Were Our Own Families Like?

General Systems Theory: The Family as System

Symbolic Interaction as a Basis for Studying Perceptions and Meanings

Is There a Family Perception?

Problematic Perceptions

Diversity and Multiculturalism in Family Stress Management

Minority Stress

Acculturative and Bicultural Stress

The Stress of Discrimination and Racism

Gender and Family Stress

Trends in the 1970s

Trends in the 1980s

Trends in the 1990s

Current Trends


Points to Remember

Discussion Questions


Additional Readings

Chapter 2- The Contextual Model of Family Stress
Why a Contextual Model?

The Family’s External Context

Cultural Context

Historical Context

Economic Context

Developmental Context

Hereditary Context


The Family’s Internal Context (Structural, Psychological, and Philosophical)

The ABC-X of Family Stress: A Frame for Definitions

The A Factor: Stressor Event (Stressful Event)

The Danger of Circular Reasoning

Classification of Family Stressor Events

Cautions About Defining a Stressor Event

The B Factor: Resources (Individual, Family, and Community)

The C Factor: Perception

The Primacy of Perceptions

Collective Versus Individual Perceptions

The X Factor: Family Crisis

The Roller Coaster Model of Family Crisis

Linking the ABC-X Model to the Roller Coaster Model of Family Crisis

The Turning Point: Family Recovery After Crisis

Family Strain


Points to Remember


Discussion Questions

Additional Readings

Chapter 3- Multicultural Perspectives of a Universal Stressor
The Stress of Grief and Loss from Death

Cultural Perceptions of Death and Loss

Definitions of Death

Resolving Loss

Same Religion, Different Culture

African American





Identity and Status in One’s Family After a Death

Applying the Contextual Model of Family Stress to This Universal Stressor

Where Is the Field Now?



Points to Remember

Discussion Questions

Additional Readings

Chapter 4- Ambiguous Loss: A Major Stressor
Ambiguous Loss Theory


Types of Ambiguous Loss

Effects of Ambiguous Loss

Individual Level

Family Level

Community Level

Core Assumptions for Working With Ambiguous Loss

Interventions: What Helps With Ambiguous Loss?

What Ambiguous Loss Is Not

Ambiguity Is Not Ambivalence

Ambiguity Is Not Uncertainty

Ambiguous Loss and Spirituality

Ambiguous Gain Versus Ambiguous Loss



Points to Remember


Discussion Questions

Additional Readings

Chapter 5- Boundary Ambiguity: A Perceptual Risk Factor in Family Stress Management
Measurement of Boundary Ambiguity

History of Boundary Ambiguity

Sociological and Psychological Roots

Family Therapy Roots

Entries and Exits; Gains and Losses

Normative Developmental Boundary Ambiguity Across the Family Life Cycle

Exceptions and Nuances

Effects of Boundary Ambiguity

Assumptions About Boundary Ambiguity

What Boundary Ambiguity Is Not

Boundary Ambiguity Is Not Boundary Maintenance

Boundary Ambiguity Is Not Boundary Permeability

Intervention for Boundary Ambiguity

New Studies and Future Directions


Points to Remember

Discussion Questions

Additional Readings

Chapter 6- Family Coping, Adapting, and Managing
Defining Individual and Family Coping

Individual Coping

Family Coping

Current Trends in Coping Research

Denial Coping

Approach/Avoidance Coping

Forbearance Coping

Preparedness Coping

Humor Coping

Religious Coping

Repressive Coping

Coping Ugly

Coping and the Contextual Model of Family Stress

Family Coping Resources

Individual Coping Resources

Community Resources for Family Coping

Intervention and Prevention

Psychoeducation as Effective Family Stress Intervention

How Did This Simple but Revolutionary Idea in Mental Health Treatment Come About?

The First Step: Where to Begin?

Complexities of the Coping Process

The Paradox of Individual Versus Family Coping

The Paradox of Functional Versus Dysfunctional Coping

Dialectical Thinking: Definition and Early Roots

The Chain Reaction of Coping or the Codetermination of Events

Cautions About Coping

Concluding Thoughts for Future Work


Points to Remember

Discussion Questions

Additional Readings

Chapter 7- Resilience for Managing Stress
The Difference Between Coping and Resilience

Defining Resilience

Resilience and Family Stress

Individual, Family, and Community Resilience

Ordinary Magic

Resilience and the Contextual Model of Family Stress

The Family’s External Context

The Family’s Internal Context

Revisiting the ABC-X Approach

Adversity and Resilience

Positive, Tolerable, and Toxic Stress

Intensity of Adversity

The Era of Resilience

Resilience Theorizing and Research Over the Years

Individual Resilience

Family Resilience

Family Science Conceptual Frameworks Focused on Resilience

Life Course Theory

Symbolic Interaction Theory

Family Stress Theory

An Example: Application to Military Families

A Third-Wave Family Resilience Framework

Resilience Frameworks Focused on Particular Situations

Resilience-Informed Professional Practice

Prevention and Resilience

Use of Family Resilience Frameworks

Cautions About Resilience

Troublesome Theorizing

The Cost of Resilience

Rebellion and Opposing the Status Quo



Points to Remember

Discussion Questions

Additional Readings

Chapter 8- Families, Communities, and Neighborhoods
Defining Community and Neighborhood

Sense of Community

Virtual Sense of Community

Community and Neighborhood

Communities and the Contextual Model of Family Stress

Research Findings on Families and Communities

Informal Connections and Relationships

Formal System Programs for Families

Neighborhood Risk

Exposure to Violence

Other Dimensions of Communities

The Social Organization Framework

Informal Networks

The Physical Environment

Community Capacity

Results for Families

The Value of Social Connections for Families

Resilient Communities

Four Types of Communities

Fluid and Dynamic Communities

Social Cohesion

Communities as Place and Force for Prevention and Intervention With Distressed Families

Communities as Place

Communities as Force

Community Family Therapy



Points to Remember


Discussion Questions

Additional Readings

Chapter 9- Future Challenges to Family Stress Management
Health Disparities

Climate Change

Widening Economic Gulf Between Low and High Income Families

Increasing Work Pressures and Economic Conditions


Conflict Driven by Religious Differences

Family Caregiving Challenges and Dilemmas

Transgender Trends and Challenges

Increasing Focus on Community

Violence in Communities

Families on New Shores

Additional Factors to Consider About the Study of Family Stress



Points to Remember

Discussion Questions

Additional Readings


“I am excited to introduce my graduate social work students to this significantly revised third edition of Family Stress Management. Grounded in the latest research literature and clearly written, this book offers its readers an integrative framework, the Contextual Model of Family Stress, that advances understanding of and practice with families facing adversity and positive challenges. Particularly noteworthy are the expanded discussions of multiculturalism, diversity, resilience, and community. Bravo and many thanks to Pauline Boss, Chalandra Bryant, and Jay Mancini for this third edition!”

Gary L. Bowen
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

“The topic of stress and coping could not be more relevant and critical to families today, and this text is an informative guide that reviews how family stress theory has evolved, has been studied in the literature, and can be used to help all families face a variety of current stressor events.”

Angie Giordano
California State University, Northridge

“Boss et al. are reflective, thorough, and human in their presentation of family stress management. This is an excellent text for undergraduate family stress courses seeking to introduce students to the expansive, and at times daunting, literature on family crisis.”

Lynette Nickleberry
SUNY Empire State College

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 1

Chapter 4

Pauline E. Boss

Pauline Boss, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus, University of Minnesota; a Fellow in the National Council on Family Relations (NCFR), the American Psychological Association, and the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. She was visiting professor at Harvard Medical School (1994–95) and the Moses Professor at Hunter School of Social Work (2004–2005). She is former president of NCFR and a family therapist in private practice. In 1988, Dr. Boss wrote the first edition of Family Stress Management with a subsequent edition in 2002. For the third edition, she invited Chalandra Bryant and Jay Mancini to be her co-authors. Each edition... More About Author

Chalandra Matrice Bryant

Chalandra M. Bryant is currently a professor of Human Development and Family Science at the University of Georgia (UGA) where she teaches courses in family development, intimate relationships, and family theories. Before moving to Georgia, she served as a faculty member at Iowa State University (1998-2003) and the Pennsylvania State University (2003-2010). Her research focuses on close relationships and the ability to sustain close intimate ties. She is particularly interested in the manner in which social, familial, economic, and psychosocial factors are linked to marital and health outcomes. After earning her PhD at the University of... More About Author

Jay A. Mancini

Jay A. Mancini is the Haltiwanger Distinguished Professor of Human Development and Family Science at the University of Georgia and Emeritus Professor of Human Development at Virginia Tech. Mancini was the 2013 Ambiguous Loss Visiting Scholar at the University of Minnesota. He received his doctoral degree in child development and family relations from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Mancini is a Fellow of the National Council on Family Relations (NCFR). His theorizing and research focuses on the intersections of vulnerability and resilience, and over his career, his research projects have focused on families and time-use,... More About Author

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