Individual and Family Stress and Crises


Janice Gauthier Weber

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  • Back Matter
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    Motivation to write this book came from the inability to locate an appropriate text for a class of juniors, seniors, and graduate students that I had taught for over 15 years using excerpts from different texts and journal articles. I had asked numerous publishing company representatives over those years for an appropriate text but had met with no success. Students did not seem to like the practice of assigning readings from multiple sources and “skipping around” in a text. For many years, I had been “stressing” over the lack of an appropriate text.

    The purpose of this book is to fill a void in the field of family science. This book is directed primarily at upper-level undergraduate students and graduate students enrolled in courses in family science programs (family life education, family studies, etc.) at 4-year colleges and universities. The contents will help to meet the course requirements for certification in family life education. After reading this book, individuals will know stress and crisis terminology and models, have an understanding of how crises develop, know how to perform primary and secondary prevention, and know how to manage a crisis through assessment, planning, intervention, and follow-up.

    Students in disciplines other than family science, such as nursing, criminal justice, sociology, and education, will also benefit from the text because any professional could encounter someone who is in crisis. For example, educators, school principals, managers, postal workers, human resource personnel, and other frontline workers, such as emergency medical technicians, police, and emergency room personnel, are in contact with people under stress on a daily basis.

    Crisis management requires not just years of training or a degree but knowledge of what to do as well as what not to do and the skills that go along with that knowledge (Hoff, 1989, 1995, 2001). In light of the times in which we live (terrorism, war, tsunamis, more frequent and intense hurricanes, economic uncertainty, rapid technological change, etc.), anyone, including lay individuals, can benefit from the information presented in the text, particularly the information on crisis management. Louisianans experienced four major hurricanes as I was writing this book. With thousands of people experiencing major stressors, there are not enough professional crisis interventionists to work with the individuals and families affected by the storms. Paraprofessionals in these situations could prevent unnecessary crises by intervening immediately after the stressor. The protocol in the shelter visited by this author appeared to be “Wait until someone ‘freaks out’ and then attend to him or her.” No crisis prevention measures were taken; individuals received just the provision of survival needs. Emotional health was an afterthought.

    Boss (2002) raised the question “Do we focus on the individual or the family?” I say that we must be prepared to do both. We do not always have access to the family, as when students are living away from home to attend a university. Families may not even know that their members are experiencing a crisis, so we must be prepared to assist individuals alone as well as within the context of the family. In addition, even when we are performing crisis management with a family, each individual may have a different definition of the situation, as well as different manifestations, resources, and coping strategies. Hill (1958) recognized this when he stated that “each responsible member experiences a roller-coaster pattern” (p. 147). Also when working with families, we generally can chart only one individual's perspective at a time. Managing family crises requires a combination of family and individual processes (Boss, 1987; Burr, Klein, & Associates, 1994). With that in mind, this book addresses both individual and family models and sociological and psychological concepts in order to understand individuals and families under stress and in crisis.

    The text uses the term stress theory rather than crisis theory. Individual models tend to be called crisis models while family models tend to be called stress models in the literature. The term stress theory accounts for the fact that individuals and families do not always experience a crisis when they experience stress; thus the label crisis theory seems more deterministic than stress theory.

    The book is organized into three parts. Part I, the introduction, includes two chapters, one on the history of stress theory and another on definitions of terms. Part II presents the stress and crisis models while Part III presents how to apply the models to crisis management.

    Boss, P. (1987). Family stress. In M.Sussman, & S.Steinmetz (Eds.), Handbook of marriage and the family (pp. 695–723). New York: Plenum Press.
    Boss, P. (2002). Family stress management: A contextual approach. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
    Burr, W. R., Klein, S. R., & Associates. (1994). Reexamining family stress: New theory and research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
    Hill, R. (1958). Generic features of families under stress. Social Casework, 49, 139–150.
    Hoff, L. A. (1989). People in crisis: Understanding and helping (
    ed.). Menlo Park, CA: Addison Wesley.
    Hoff, L. A. (1995). People in crisis: Understanding and helping (
    ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
    Hoff, L. A. (2001). People in crisis: Clinical and public health perspectives (
    ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


    SAGE would like to thank the following reviewers:

    • Sadguna Anasuri, University of Wisconsin–Stout
    • Suzanne Bartle-Haring, The Ohio State University
    • Julia A. Malia, The University of Tennessee–Knoxville
    • Julie A. Maschhoff, Illinois State University
    • Michael J. Merten, Oklahoma State University
    • Megan J. Murphy, Iowa State University
    • Carolyn Slotten, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio
    • Mixon Ware, Eastern Kentucky University
    • Mari S. Wilhelm, University of Arizona
  • Appendix: Comparison of Family Stress Models

    About the Author

    Janice Gauthier Weber, PhD, CFLE, CFCS, is an associate professor in the Child and Family Studies Program at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. At the university, she developed and taught for over 20 years a course titled Families in Crisis. She has published in the area of family life education, including encyclopedia articles on stress and crisis in families (“Family Crises,” Human Ecology, ABC-CLIO, 2003; “Stress Management Theory and Techniques in Families,” Encyclopedia of Family Health, Sage, in press), as well as pedagogical materials (Analyzing a Personal Crisis, National Council on Family Relations, 1993). In addition, Dr. Weber has done numerous presentations on issues related to stress and crisis for both professional and lay audiences, such as War Hits Home: How to Talk to Children; Living With Grief: Coping With Public Tragedy; Effects of Events of September 11, 2001, on College Students; Comparative Analysis of Bereavement Outcomes in Young Widowed and Divorced Women; Violence Against Teachers: High School Teachers' Fears of, Experiences With, and Perceptions of Prevention; Passages: Life, Loss, and Changes; Crisis Prevention and Management; Lens on Teaching Individual and Family Stress Theory and Crisis Intervention; Get Organized: Be CALM and RELAXED; Talking to Children About War and Disasters; Making Sense of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita: The Context of Disaster; De-stressing Your Family; and Ambiguous Loss in Staff, Children, and Ourselves: What Is It and What Can We Do About It?

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