Advancing Family Theories

Books

James M. White

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  • Front Matter
  • Back Matter
  • Subject Index
  • Dedication

    For my daughter Rebecca and her princess, Kodi.

    Thank you both for teaching me about your worlds.

    Copyright

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    Preface

    This book is the outcome of a series of long-standing difficulties in teaching graduate-level theory courses. Understanding these difficulties is a key to understanding this project. For example, one of the difficulties that consistently plagued me was the absence of any one text that would accomplish all that I would wish. Among those items on my wish list for such a book is that it would grapple with contemporary philosophical challenges to social scientific theory. Certainly there are philosophy books that struggle with these issues, but I wanted a text that would examine these issues from the perspective of the social science theorist. A second item on my wish list is for a book that would give the student a precise notion of what theory is and how theories work in research. A third item on my wish list is that the book would not just stay in the philosophical realms but would examine particular substantive theories that explain and predict family behaviors. Finally, I wanted the book to be complementary to the Family Theories book (White & Klein, 2002). The Family Theories book provides a useful survey of the major theoretical frameworks. However, I wanted an advanced book that would go into greater detail in specific substantive theories as well as the philosophical foundations. Certainly my wish list is longer, but you can already see that such a book doesn't exist. Hence, as with the first Family Theories book, the obvious remedy was to sit down and write it.

    Although the principal motivation for this book originated from my graduate teaching, other problems arose through my professional interactions with colleagues. Although these problems are numerous, I can summarize them as a devaluation of theory as a component of research. Many colleagues seem to believe they have attended to theory once they identify what I call a conceptual hypothesis. Indeed, in some areas of endeavor “conceptual hypotheses” are considered theory. This problem is, of course, tied to a resurgence of blind empiricism that assumes all we need are the “facts” and fails to realize that “facts” are theoretical entities created from theoretical

    propositions and assumptions. Adding this clarification and correction to this perspective would serve graduate students as well as colleagues.

    Finally, I see this book as opening up the field of theory to both students and colleagues. I am convinced that once theory and theorizing is seen as actually a very grounded and straightforward process, we might see a resurgence in the building and fortifying of social science theory about families. I feel some urgency for social science to return to a more theoretically oriented stance because I perceive that without theory social science will become a kind of journalism with statistics.

    A last word here is on my mistakes and controversy. You can't undertake an ambitious project like this without being prepared to make some mistakes and to stimulate some controversy. No one with any intellectual honesty would ever say that any study or academic project is pristine and without errors and omissions. Certainly that is true of this project. However, it is the nature of the scientific community of scholars to debate and point out these errors. Indeed, I regard the best outcome of this book to be the stimulation of discussion and debate and correction of its errors and omissions. That simply reaffirms for me the perspective on theory and science that this book argues.

    JamesM.White, Vancouver, Canada

    Acknowledgments

    Although one starts a book alone, as an idea, as a prospectus sent to a publisher, one finishes in the company of a small army of colleagues and supporters. Certainly this book is no different from others, but each project is special and has its own particular cast.

    First I would like to thank David Klein, who encouraged me to take on this project years ago. The folks at Sage Publications were their usual marvelous selves. Jim Brace-Thompson's initial enthusiasm for this project and his unswerving support was absolutely essential and so much appreciated. Two anonymous reviewers did a splendid job of reading the first draft, catching major errors, and offering splendid advice. As always, Karen Ehrmann and her crew were there to correct most of my minor errors and bring this book into production. My special thanks to Diana Breti for her excellent copyediting of the manuscript and her ability to keep me moving to meet deadlines.

    I also owe a considerable debt of gratitude to my students attending the 2003 fall graduate theory seminar: Alice Balter, Clifton Chow, Theo Elfers, Jassal Surita, Joanna Tang, Laura Templeton, and Lyanne Westie. These students were very patient with me as I tried ideas out on them and exposed them to material used in the book. I also appreciate that the students kindly read the first versions of Chapters 1 through 4 and showed me that this material was not too difficult for these first-year graduate students.

    Finally, I owe much gratitude to my family for support, patience, and understanding while I concentrated on writing. Much of the book was written at home, and my family was often neglected and ignored as a result of my concentration on this project. I was also variously assisted by Robin, Amy, Kelly, and Rebecca as they looked up words in the dictionary for me or found missing references.

    All of these people supported and assisted me in various capacities. Whatever success this book enjoys is largely due to them. Of course, the errors, omissions, and the more major conceptual problems are ones for which I take full responsibility. And as for me, my rewards have been obtained in the process of writing this book, which was so enriched by all of these people.

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    Author Index

    About the Author

    James M. White is known internationally for his work in the area of family theory. His first book, Dynamics of Family Development, developed a new approach to family development and generated interest both in the United States (1991) and abroad (Japan, 1994). His second book, with David M. Klein, surveys the major extant theories used for studying the family and is now it its second edition. He has also coauthored Families in Canada (third edition, 2004). He has been a keen supporter of the Theory Construction and Research Methodology Workshop (TCRM) hosted by the National Council on Family Relations and has presented many papers to this group. Besides his interest in researching family theory and development, he is also interested in marital interaction, family structure, and cohabitation. He is the author of numerous journal articles appearing both in sociology journals and such journals as the Journal of Family Issues, the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, and the Journal of Marriage and Family. He has authored chapters for books, including the chapter he coauthored with R. H. Rodgers on family development in the Sourcebook of Family Theories and Methods: A Contextual Approach (1993). He has served as referee for numerous journals in family relations and public health and is an associate editor for the Canadian Journal of Public Health, the Journal of Comparative Family Studies and The International Encyclopedia of Family Relationships. He is past president of the Northwest Council on Family Relations, whose membership includes academics, practitioners, and therapists from the states and provinces of the Pacific Northwest. He is a professor in the School of Social Work and Family Studies at the University of British Columbia and resides with his wife and three daughters in Vancouver, Canada.


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