Family Life Education: Principles and Practices for Effective Outreach


Stephen F. Duncan & H. Wallace Goddard

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    Preface to the Third Edition

    Family life educators are found in many settings. Much important family life education (FLE) is done in school and university classrooms. This book is designed as a practical yet scholarly how-to volume for a different set of family life educators: those who work outside a traditional classroom setting. The broad goal of this book is to help upper division and graduate students who are preparing to be family life educators as well as FLE professionals who serve on the front lines. This book is intended to develop and enhance the knowledge and skills needed to take family life education principles to citizens where they live and work. To this end, we have tried to incorporate some of the leading scholarship with years of our own professional experiences, to provide a scholarly yet practical guide for the family life education professional and professional-to-be.

    This book is based on the assumption that there are specialized skills and knowledge a family life educator needs to succeed with the general public, those persons who are not likely to return to college to learn for family life. The needs and motivations of this audience usually differ from the traditional family science college or high school students. For example, it is known that adult education audiences are more likely to be motivated by a personal or family need (e.g., see Knowles, 1998). In addition, venues for family life education outside the traditional classroom vary greatly, from radio broadcasts and newsletters to home visits and workplace training. Thus, for family life educators to succeed in the business of educating the public requires a somewhat different skill set than teaching students in traditional classroom settings. This book is intended to arm students and professionals with practical, educational experiences in their college curriculum and continuing education to become more effective ambassadors of family science scholarship to citizens of the world.

    Various works have been published on family life education prior to the current volume. The comprehensive Handbook of Family Life Education, Vols. 1 and 2, published in 1993 and edited by Margaret Arcus, Jay Schvaneveldt, and Joel Moss, provided solid coverage of the scholarship and practice of family life education to that date. These volumes clarified many issues and raised questions that have spawned research and theory in family life education. These volumes provide a strong academic treatment of family life education with leanings toward college-level family life education. They are more oriented toward basic scholarship than practical application.

    A more recent work, titled Family Life Education: An Introduction, published in 2001 (with a second edition published in 2007) and written by Lane Powell and Dawn Cassidy, updates several of the content areas of the Handbook volumes and provides many useful ideas as a solid primer for the practice of family life education. A new volume published in 2014 as a third edition of the Powell and Cassidy book, Family Life Education: Working With Families Across the Lifespan, adds as senior author long-time FLE scholar Carol Darling, who, among other contributions, brings an international perspective to the practice of family life education.

    Family Life Education: Principles and Practices for Effective Outreach is the first book on family life education to combine both the scholarly foundation and the practical how-tos for successfully carrying out family life education outside a traditional classroom setting. We have tried to improve upon and extend this focus in this third edition.

    A comprehensive, scholarly yet practical, how-to text has been needed in the field for a long time, both to train upper division and graduate level students how to do family life education but also as a sourcebook to strengthen professionals already in the field. Thus far many have been consigned to learn the principles and practices of effective family life education through limited university training or the crucible of experience alone.

    Family Life Education: Principles and Practices for Effective Outreach originally had its genesis when we generated a topical outline collected from our professional experiences as cooperative extension specialists in four states. We also drew on the experience of colleagues across the country. We have continued to draw on this experience as we updated and crafted additional materials for this edition.

    The revised book is organized into five sections and 19 chapters, including one new chapter, followed by an Appendix. The first section, “Foundations of Family Life Education,” lays the foundation for effective outreach work by discussing the historical and philosophical underpinnings of current outreach family life education, guiding readers to develop their own FLE philosophy and role as an FLE. The second section, “Development of Family Life Education Programs,” includes chapters that present an integrated framework for developing comprehensive prevention programs and approaches for evaluating such programs. The third section, “Implementing Family Life Education Programs,” includes several chapters to help readers learn principles and methods for teaching the lay audience, including designing effective instruction, engaging an audience, teaching skills and tools, and working with diverse audiences. The fourth section, “Content and Contexts for Family Life Education,” includes four content chapters on education for personal well-being, marriage and relationship education, parenting education, and sexuality education. It also adds three additional contexts chapters detailing how to do family life education in settings other than traditional workshop teaching, such as using Internet technology, traditional and social networking media, and writing for the lay audience. The final section, “Promoting, Marketing, and Sustaining Family Life Education Programs,” contains chapters to assist the reader to learn principles and practices for forming effective collaborations and marketing family life principles, practices, and programs. The book concludes with a “Narratives of Family Life Educators” chapter, providing a window into family life education through the experience of several currently practicing FLEs, a new chapter on mentoring, titled “Helping Others Find Their Place in Family Life Education,” and an epilogue chapter, designed to highlight the needs of future research and practice in family life education. Each chapter includes an “Explorations” section at the end, designed as a real-life application of the chapter material.

    We appreciate and acknowledge the continued involvement of our several contributing authors and several new authors: Susan Calahan, author of Chapter 11 on sexuality education; Aaron Ebata, lead author of Chapter 12 on technology use in FLE; and Tonya Fischio, lead author of Chapter 13 on media in FLE. We also express appreciation to Heidi Stolz for her continued lead authorship of Chapter 10 on parenting education and Alan Hawkins for his continued contributions to Chapter 9 on marriage and relationship education. We also welcome the involvement of new colleagues: Susan Walker as a coauthor of the media chapter and overseer of the new collection of media found in Appendix D; Sarah Curtiss, as a coauthor with Aaron Ebata on the technology chapter; and Kayla Sizemore as a coauthor with Heidi Stolz on the parenting education chapter. We are indebted to these continuing and new colleagues for generously sharing their expertise.

    We acknowledge also the individuals who provided critical reviews of the third edition. These individuals provided many helpful insights that led to important additions that made this third edition a better product for our intended audiences. We express gratitude to Kassie Graves of SAGE for her support throughout the development of this book. Her encouragement has helped us keep on track.

    We thank you, the reader, who is committed to helping families in your sphere of influence to live more satisfying and loving family lives. We wish you every success in your family life education pursuits.

    Finally, we express appreciation to loving and supportive family members, particularly our wives, Barbara and Nancy, whose constant encouragement is always a major factor in any of our worthy accomplishments.

    Steve Duncan and Wally GoddardOctober 2015


    SAGE Publishing gratefully acknowledges the following reviewers:

    • Thomas V. Frederick, Hope International University
    • Janis L. Henderson, Texas Tech University
    • Yvonne Moody, Chadron State College
    • Robb Palmer, Evangelical Theological Seminary
    • Susan Reichelt, Winthrop University
  • Appendix A: A Statement of Principles

    This appendix is quite different from the chapters in this book. While all the chapters amass the scholarly thinking and evidence behind certain practices, this appendix lists, describes, and applies a set of principles. These principles are much like assumptions. They may fit with the informed good sense of many scholars and practitioners, but we do not undertake to prove them. We suggest that they be used as discussion points in clarifying thinking or developing programs. In considering program coverage and recommendations, the principles can act as a helpful guide.

    For example, when outlining a program for teen parents, planners might examine this list of principles. They might identify those with special application to the specific audience and objectives of the program. They might consider how to honor all the principles in the process of developing the program. The same kind of reflection might be done in designing activities for the program.

    The principles can also guide our own development and professional practice. We must grow if we are to help those we serve to grow. Consider those areas where you would like to make greater application of principles in your practice of family life education (FLE).

    The Principle of Order: Behavior Has Predictable Consequences

    Elaboration: The laws of nature and the laws of relationships follow systematic principles. By working with the laws, we get the outcomes we seek. A farmer who fails to provide wise and consistent attention to his crops is likely to harvest more weeds than grain.

    Marriage example: A couple that tries to operate over the years on initial infatuation without continued investments of understanding and connection is likely to drift apart. A person who chooses to blame is likely to experience alienation.

    Parenting example: Children who do not have a close personal relationship with at least one adult who talks to them, loves them, and respects them as special people are likely to grow up emotionally and socially limited. It is important for children’s development that there be adults who interact positively with them.

    FLE application: Family members who fail to gain knowledge and act deliberately are likely to have more family problems than if they seek information and act intentionally. To affect outcomes, it is important to understand the laws of development and apply them. Family life educators can appeal to people’s intuitive sense of this law in marketing programs by asking, “Do you want your family outcomes to be left to chance?”

    The Principle of Empathy: A Fundamental Act of Caring Is Taking Time to Look at the World Through Another Person’s Eyes

    Elaboration: Our fundamental separateness as humans cannot be overcome without the effort to understand the feelings and unique experiences of those we care about. A fundamental act of hostility or indifference is to fail to see or try to see the world from another person’s perspective.

    Marriage example: It is common in marriage to interpret partner behavior based on its effect on us. Until we take time to discover what that behavior means to the partner, we do not understand our partner and cannot respond helpfully.

    Parenting example: When a child comes home from school feeling humiliated by a bad experience, we can increase our intimacy and show support for the child by taking time to understand what that experience means to the child. The parent begins with “Tell me what happened” and follows by restating the child’s experience in words that let the child know that the parent can relate to the child’s experience.

    FLE application: This principle not only undergirds the content of much FLE but is vital in the delivery of FLE. Participants can be expected to respond more positively to facilitators who are compassionate and understanding. The same principle may be applied in dealings with ourselves. When we interpret our own lapses in patient, empathic ways, we are less likely to get discouraged (see Seligman, 1991).

    The Principle of Agency: People Are Free to Make Choices

    Elaboration: No one can make a person think, feel, and usually even act in ways contrary to that person’s choices. A person’s choices can be better understood by knowing the past but are not bounded or dictated by what has gone on before.

    Marriage example: A partner’s anger does not require our reaction in kind. We can choose to be reflective, understanding, and helpful rather than angry, resentful, or spiteful.

    Parenting example: Parents can help children recognize their options and make choices based on their values rather than thoughtless, automatic reactions.

    FLE application: Much of FLE—and self-help in general—invites participants to make choices. One way humans create problems for themselves is by telling themselves victim stories in which they suffer at the hands of others. Another is to create villain stories in which other people are especially bad and take away our power of choice. A third kind of story is helpless stories, where we see ourselves as powerless.

    There is some truth in all of these stories. We do suffer from other people’s misdeeds. We do work with some people who are very difficult. We do not have complete control of our experience.

    But the key to growth in any setting—family, community, or work—is using the power we do have. Rather than feeding the monster stories that make us—or those we serve—feel powerless, hopeless, and resentful, we can identify our space for action and act within it (see Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, & Switzler, 2002).

    The Principle of Momentum: The Pattern of One’s Life Is Defined by the Accumulation of Choices

    Elaboration: Patterns of choices have a cumulative effect. Some choices are made more difficult because of a pattern of previous choices. The person who has often chosen anger as the reaction to differences of opinion may find that reaction becoming automatic.

    Marriage example: The emotional bank account is a good example of the principle of momentum. Those partners who consistently invest in the relationship through acts of thoughtfulness, kindness, and consideration will have an account balance superior to those who make withdrawals without an abundance of deposits.

    Parenting example: Children can be taught to be aware of momentum. One small act of kindness can lead to another, and then to another, until kindness becomes interwoven in the pattern of a person’s life.

    FLE application: A participant in a workshop may be very discouraged at the difficulty of a new approach. The new skill can be compared to a new language. It may be learned slowly and used imperfectly but, persisted at, can become natural over time. Some family life educators recommend overlearning, that is, practicing a new skill until it becomes automatic (see Gottman, 1994). This is a way to develop momentum in a different, more helpful direction.

    The Principle of Loss: Sometimes the Best Choice to Sustain and Affirm Life Requires Risk or Sacrifice

    Elaboration: It is easy to suppose that good choices are always easy. That is not always true. Good usually entails some cost. For example, the willingness to stand up for principles may result in the loss of a friendship.

    Marriage example: Some people avoid close relationships because of the risk of being hurt. The fact is that we can limit our risk and manage our investment, but in so doing, we limit the potential for growth and intimacy.

    Parenting example: Close relationships are based on the willingness to give and share with another person. One loses, or risks losing, something in order to gain something even more important—the respect and affection of another person. When parents allow children time to tie their shoes on their own, parents are slowed down. When a parent allows a teen the opportunity to drive the family car, the parent risks damage to the car and injury to an inexperienced driver.

    FLE application: It can actually be reassuring to participants that there is risk in undertaking new skills. “No one does this perfectly. We all goof up more or less often.” In a counterintuitive finding by Wilson and Linville (1982), students who were told that it was normal to experience some failure as they adjusted to a new process (in their case, university education) actually performed better than those who were not told. It can be reassuring that failure does not signal unique stupidity or ineptitude. It may only mean that we are learning and growing.

    Principle of Integrity: Acting Consistent With Internal Principles of Right and Wrong and Out of Compassion for All Life Builds Healthy Relationships

    Elaboration: A sense of right and wrong is the accumulated wisdom of experience with life. The key is to put these moral concepts into action and monitor their application in terms of how they affect ourselves and others.

    Marriage example: A man who tells his wife he loves her and works to show his love in his actions toward her is likely to have a strong relationship with her.

    Parenting example: Parents may emphasize the importance of consistency between what their children say and do. If children, for example, say they will or will not do something, they are obligated by integrity to follow through consistently. In a similar way, when parents make a promise to a child, parents assume the obligation to do as they said despite the challenges that might follow.

    FLE application: Participants who are evaluating any particular course of action in family life might consider two questions: “Is this action likely to get me what I want? Does this action show respect for the other people involved?” According to Hoffman (2000), humans can develop an internalized concern for others when they are treated with empathy and taught to understand the feelings of others. We can invite participants to draw on their own inner voices of compassion by asking, “What do you feel best about? In your heart, what do you think would show respect for that person?”

    The Principle of Movement: Life Is Movement

    Elaboration: Short of cryogenic freezing, humans do not hold still. Life cannot be captured in a shadow box. People move actively toward one set of goals or another. The key is to move briskly and wisely toward carefully chosen goals. To stop growing is to die.

    Marriage example: Relationships do not coast to bliss. Failure to invest in a relationship entails moving toward other goals, whether they are as vacuous as television watching or as demanding as career development. In any case, we move either toward or away from each other.

    Parenting example: Children are growing and changing every day. Knowing a child means rediscovering him or her afresh in each encounter.

    FLE application: It is popular to observe that the only constant is change. In FLE, we can teach people to use change as an ally rather than an enemy. Some of the difficulties in children (colic, diapers, and tantrums) will be outgrown with a little patience and perspective. Some of the difficulties in marriage (severely limited resources, tiredness) pass if we are patient. Rather than let today’s discontents become the theme of our family story, we can learn to move forward while watching for sunnier weather (see Gottman, 1994).

    The Principle of Goodness: There Is an Inclination in the Human Spirit Toward Life-Enhancing Behavior

    Elaboration: Healthy human beings fight to protect and preserve life. Healthy human beings flinch at the sight of suffering and waste. While decay is real, so also is the drive toward goodness, connection, and growth.

    Marriage example: There are strong survival instincts that partners have for their relationship. When those instincts are swamped by despair and hopelessness, the relationship may end. However, even when discouragement is strong, the flames of hope can be fanned into new warmth, especially when determination is joined with fresh ideas.

    Parenting example: Young children smile and reach out during the first months of life. The parent can encourage that inclination by responding warmly and sensitively to the child. Children need to be loved and to have the opportunity to love.

    FLE application: Some scholars have argued that inborn empathy is the basis of moral development (see Hoffman, 1983). If that is true, there is a solid basis for believing that humans can learn to live together. Family members who learn perspective taking may be able to move beyond competitive thinking to cooperative efforts. Family life educators who show compassion for participants can help participants show compassion to other family members (see Chapter 6 in this volume and Maddux, 2002).

    The Principle of Chaos: The World Is Not Always Tidy

    Elaboration: It is wise to make allowances for imperfection and untidiness in life and relationships. Expecting Hollywood endings in all life struggles sets a person up for disappointment.

    Marriage example: We never know our partners completely. We never work together perfectly. There are irresolvable differences in every relationship. Insisting on perfection guarantees disappointment. Accepting differences, even unpleasant ones, encourages more peace and better cooperation.

    Parenting example: As we work with children, we make allowances for the inconvenience and challenge of living with little people who will not fit tidily into our adult schedules. Parents who adjust their schedules and expectations in order to synchronize with their children will find greater harmony and growth. Despite our good intentions and best efforts, some problems will remain.

    FLE application: There certainly is untidiness in FLE. Many participants do not understand (or do not accept) our recommendations or may implement them imperfectly. Any growth is incremental. Family life educators are wise to calibrate expectations. It may be helpful to think about the whole context in which participants live and to acknowledge the challenges of change (for ideas on change processes, see Prochaska, Norcross, & DiClemente, 1994; for ideas about limits on human change, see Seligman, 1995).

    The Principle of Readiness for Change: Problems Are Best Solved When Family Members Are Mentally and Emotionally Ready to Grow and When Family Members Are Feeling Safe and Valued

    Elaboration: True and enduring change cannot be achieved through physical or psychological force. Individual perspectives have to be respected and problems addressed at a time when those involved can listen, think, and learn. We cannot impose growth.

    Marriage example: Marital conflict is more likely when partners are tired, frustrated, unhappy, hungry, or upset. To attempt to address chronic marital differences when people are in such a state may be like trying to read the paper while sitting in a burning house. There is wisdom in approaching differences when we feel peaceful—when we are under the influence of our nobler nature.

    Parenting example: Children do not learn well or gladly when they are tired. Bedtime is not the best time to confront misbehavior and teach limits. Children learn best when they are alert and when we approach them with respect and kindness.

    FLE application: It is natural to use a medical model in working with participants in FLE. We diagnose their failings and make specific recommendations. The challenge in working with humans is that the focus on problems can make people feel discouraged or resistant. Seligman (2002) has challenged such medical approaches: “I do not believe that you should devote overly much effort to correcting your weaknesses. Rather, I believe that the highest success in living and the deepest emotional satisfaction comes from building and using your signature strengths” (p. 13). Participants in our FLE efforts may be helped more by appreciation and encouragement of their strengths than by incisive diagnosis of their shortcomings. At the very least, our positive relationship with participants provides us the trust capital that will make us better change agents when participants are prepared to change.

    The Principle of Discovery: There Are Always More Possibilities Than Our Individual Experiences Suggest

    Elaboration: No one person has sufficient experience to know everything about a problem. No one person can see all points of view. That is why it is vital for us to learn from each other.

    Marriage example: Many conflicts among couples involve imposing personal “musts” on the relationship. “We must get up early.” “We must celebrate the holidays elaborately.” “We must have a large house.” When we are truly open to other people’s experiences and perspectives, we discover many roads leading to growth, intimacy, and satisfaction.

    Parenting example: Rather than dictate behavior to children, we can help them discover options. Children should not be flooded with more choices than they can process. They can be helped to discover multiple pathways through life. In addition, there are many different ways to successfully raise a child.

    FLE application: If the only valued tools in an FLE experience are those held by the facilitator, there are likely to be many problems that don’t get fixed. The most capable family life educators draw on the life experience and creative thinking of the participants. Each participant brings a unique set of tools and perceptions.

    The Principle of Synergy: When We Act Together, We Discover Possibilities That None of Us Would Discover Alone

    Elaboration: When people turn from proving they are right to working toward joint possibilities, they often discover remarkable options. Our differences have important clues to guide our growth and discovery. When we work alone, we limit our reach.

    Marriage example: For vacation, he wants to go fishing with the kids. She wants to visit her mother. They can fight about the virtue of their respective preferences. Or, working together, they can discover a better way. Maybe he will find a fishing hole near her mother’s place. Maybe she will visit her mom at a different time. There are surprising possibilities when we join creative forces.

    Parenting example: Even when parents feel that they cannot allow a child to participate in a certain activity, they can ask the child to suggest alternatives. They can join the child in exploring possibilities. “What would be an activity that we both might enjoy?” The principle of synergy suggests that making children our partners makes for more successful problem solving.

    FLE application: This is the 3rd Space concept that is discussed in Chapter 7, “Working With Diverse Audiences.” It is also the concept effectively popularized by Stephen R. Covey (1989). Those who are not bounded by their own poverty of options but who effectively draw on the wealth of possibilities in the group are likely to be effective family life educators.

    The Principle of Legacy: Our Ultimate Well-Being Depends on Making an Investment in Others

    Elaboration: Under the sway of the self-esteem movement, many have determined to meet their own needs at all costs. The self becomes the standard of judgment. Yet generativity and integrity in life depend on the investments we make in other people and in relationships. When we live only for ourselves, we never discover the satisfactions that come from service.

    Marriage example: Rather than see marriage as a partnership where two relatively autonomous adults share some part of their lives as long as it is profitable, we can see marriage as the place where flawed and imperfect people commit to join and help each other in a journey. Marriage can be more than a convenient and pragmatic partnership; it can be a commitment to being together, growing together, and serving together. In serving we grow.

    Parenting example: When children are involved in caring for and about others, they are less likely to have serious adjustment problems. Children can be involved in helping others in many ways. In the early years, they may join their parents in visiting the sick, elderly, or lonely. As they get older, they may contribute their own energy and talents to improving life for those in their circle of experience who are in need.

    FLE application: Erikson (1963) recognized generativity as one of the great accomplishments of adulthood. While many participants will come to FLE with some measure of sorrow and disappointment, we can invite them to “find the glory in their [family] story” (Gottman, 1994, p. 224). Perhaps they have not triumphed, but certainly they have grown. In fact, Gottman recommends several ways that couples can strengthen their futures by celebrating the best of the past.

    The Principle of Evil: There Is Potential for Evil in People

    Elaboration: To ignore evil is to be unprepared for the challenges of life. Each of us can be forgiven for an occasional self-serving pursuit of personal goals. None of us is totally selfless. Some individuals, though, twisted by harmful conditions during their formative years, have made the choice to commit themselves to self-serving goals, destructive behavior, and indifference to human suffering. Although not inherently “evil,” children who are not treasured, nurtured, and loved can become inhumane. Even though individuals with this destructive personality are a distinct minority, their presence has to be acknowledged and understood.

    Marriage example: Partners in a relationship can cherish each other knowing that there is an element of danger in the world. Their marriage can provide solace and comfort and provide a secure base for managing any threats to family well-being.

    Parenting example: In the absence of active, committed adults in their lives, children are not likely to develop their potential for compassion and caring. They may even become brutish and heartless.

    FLE application: Some people have suffered in ways that make immediate growth through FLE unlikely. They may need help getting unstuck. Wise family life educators learn when to refer participants to mental health professionals (see Doherty, 1995).


    Create a set of principles to which you subscribe. The principles may be modified from this list or be a very different set. Consider how the principles you have chosen or developed would guide your efforts as a family life educator in areas where you plan to work.

    Appendix B Family Life Education Content Areas: Content and Practice Guidelines 2014

    1. Families and Individuals in Societal Contexts

    Content: An understanding of families and their relationships to other institutions, such as the educational, governmental, religious, health care, and occupational institutions in society.

    e.g., Research and theories related to: Structures and Functions; Cultural Variations (family heritage, social class, geography, ethnicity, race & religion); Dating, Courtship, Marital Choice; Kinship; Cross-Cultural & Minority (understanding of lifestyles of minority families and the lifestyles of families in various societies around the world); Changing Gender Roles (role expectations & behaviors of courtship partners, marital partners, parents & children, siblings, & extended kin); Demographic Trends; Historical Issues; Work/Leisure & Family Relationships; Societal Relations (reciprocal influence of the major social institutions & families, i.e., governmental, religious, educational, health care, & economic).

    Practice—A CFLE is prepared to:

    • Identify the characteristics, diversity, & impact of local, national, & global social systems
    • Identify factors (e.g., media, marketing, technology, economics, social movements, war, natural disasters, environment, sustainability) influencing individuals and families from both contemporary and historical perspectives
    • Identify factors that influence the relationship between work, personal, and family life
    • Identify social and cultural influences affecting dating, courtship, partner/marital choice and relationships, family composition, and family life
    • Recognize the reciprocal interaction between individuals, families, and various social systems (e.g., workplace, health, legal, educational, religious/spiritual)
    • Assess the impact of demographics (e.g., class, race, ethnicity, religion, generation, gender, sexual orientation) on contemporary families
    2. Internal Dynamics of Families

    Content: An understanding of family strengths and weaknesses and how family members relate to each other.

    e.g., Research & theories related to: Internal Social Processes (including cooperation & conflict); Communication (patterns & problems in husband-wife relationships & in parent-child relationships, including stress & conflict management); Conflict Management; Decision-making and Goal-setting; Normal Family Stresses (transition periods in the family life cycle, three-generation households, caring for the elderly, & dual careers); Family Stress & Crises (divorce, remarriage, death, economic uncertainty & hardship, violence, substance abuse); Special Needs in Families (including adoptive, foster, migrant, low income, military, & blended families as well as those members with chronic illness and/or disabilities).

    Practice—A CFLE is prepared to:

    • Recognize and define healthy and unhealthy characteristics pertaining to:
      • Family relationships
      • Family development
    • Analyze family functioning using various theoretical perspectives
    • Assess family dynamics from a systems perspective
    • Evaluate family dynamics in response to normative and non-normative stressors
    • Evaluate family dynamics in response to stress, crises, and trauma
    • Facilitate and strengthen communication processes, conflict-management, and problem-solving skills
    • Develop, recognize, and reinforce strategies that help families function effectively
    3. Human Growth and Development Across the Lifespan

    Content: An understanding of the developmental changes (both typical and atypical) of individuals in families across the lifespan. Based on knowledge of physical, emotional, cognitive, social, moral, and personality aspects.

    e.g., Research and theories related to: Prenatal; Infancy; Early and Middle Childhood; Adolescence; Adulthood; Aging.

    Practice—A CFLE is prepared to:

    • Identify developmental stages, transitions, tasks, and challenges throughout the lifespan
    • Recognize reciprocal influences
      • Individual development on families
      • Family development on individuals
    • Recognize the impact of individual health and wellness on families
    • Assist individuals and families in effective developmental transitions
    • Apply appropriate practices based on theories of human growth and development to individuals and families
    • Recognize socio-ecological influences on human development across the lifespan (e.g., sexual/gender identity, trauma, etc.)
    4. Human Sexuality

    Content: An understanding of the physiological, psychological, and social aspects of sexual development across the lifespan, so as to achieve healthy sexual adjustment.

    e.g., Research and theories related to: Reproductive Physiology; Biological Determinants; Emotional and Psychological Aspects of Sexual Involvement; Sexual Behaviors; Sexual Values & Decision-Making; Family Planning; Physiological & Psychological Aspects of Sexual Response; Influence of Sexual Involvement on Interpersonal Relationships.

    Practice—A CFLE is prepared to:

    • Recognize the biological aspects of human sexuality (sexual functioning, reproductive health, family planning, sexually transmitted infections)
    • Recognize the psycho-social aspects of human sexuality
      • Characteristics of healthy and unhealthy sexual relationships
      • Interpersonal dynamics of sexual intimacy
      • Risk factors (e.g., substance abuse, social pressures, media)
    • Address human sexuality from value-respectful positions
    5. Interpersonal Relationships

    Content: An understanding of the development and maintenance of interpersonal relationships.

    e.g., Research and theories related to: Self and Others; Communication Skills (listening, empathy, self-disclosure, decision making, problem-solving, and conflict resolution); Intimacy, Love, Romance; Relating to Others with Respect, Sincerity, & Responsibility.

    Practice—A CFLE is prepared to:

    • Recognize the impact of personality and communication styles
    • Recognize the developmental stages of relationships
    • Analyze interpersonal relationships using various theoretical perspectives
    • Develop and implement relationship enhancement and enrichment strategies
    • Develop and implement effective communication, problem solving, and anger and conflict management strategies
    • Recognize the impact of violence and coercion in interpersonal relationships
    • Recognize the influence of unhealthy coping strategies (e.g., substance use, disordered eating, avoidance) on interpersonal relationships
    6. Family Resource Management

    Content: An understanding of the decisions individuals and families make about developing and allocating resources including time, money, material assets, energy, friends, neighbors, and space, to meet their goals.

    e.g., Research and theories related to: Goal Setting and Decision-Making; Development and Allocation of Resources; Social Environment Influences; Life Cycle and Family Structure Influences; Consumer Issues and Decisions.

    Practice—A CFLE is prepared to:

    • Recognize the multiplicity of resources families need, acquire, and manage (personal, familial, professional, community, environmental)
    • Recognize and facilitate the reciprocal relationship between individual/family/community choices and resources
    • Apply and facilitate effective decision-making processes (e.g., assessment of individual and family needs, identification and evaluation of options and resources, implementation of decision, evaluation of outcomes)
    • Understand the impact of values and goals in the decision making process
    • Apply organizational and time management strategies
    • Apply basic financial management tools and principles
    • Inform individuals & families of consumer rights, responsibilities, and choices of action/advocacy
    7. Parenting Education and Guidance

    Content: An understanding of how parents teach, guide and influence children and adolescents as well as the changing nature, dynamics and needs of the parent child relationship across the lifespan.

    e.g., Research and theories related to: Parenting Rights and Responsibilities; Parenting Practices/Processes; Parent/Child Relationships; Variation in Parenting Solutions; Changing Parenting Roles Across the Life Cycle.

    Practice—A CFLE is prepared to:

    • Promote healthy parenting from systems and lifespan perspectives
    • Promote healthy parenting from a child’s and parent’s developmental perspective
    • Apply strategies based on the child’s age/stage of development to promote effective developmental outcomes
    • Identify different parenting styles and their associated psychological, social, and behavioral outcomes
    • Analyze various parenting programs, models, and principles
    • Evaluate the effectiveness and appropriateness of various parenting strategies
    • Recognize various parenting roles (e.g., father/mother, grandparents, other caregivers) and their impact on and contribution to individuals and families
    • Recognize parenting issues within various family structures (e.g., single, blended, same-sex)
    • Recognize the impact of societal trends on parenting (e.g., technology, substance abuse, media)
    • Recognize the influence of cultural differences and diversity
    • Identify strategies to support children in various settings (e.g., schools, legal system, healthcare)
    • Recognize the various pathways to parenting and their associated issues and challenges, (e.g., assisted reproduction, adoption, childbirth, blending)
    8. Family Law & Public Policy

    Content: An understanding of legal issues, policies, and laws influencing the well-being of families.

    e.g., Family and the Law (relating to marriage, divorce, family support, child custody, child protection and rights, and family planning); Family and Social Services; Family and Education; Family and the Economy; Family and Religion; Policy and the Family (public policy as it affects the family, including tax, civil rights, social security, economic support laws, and regulations).

    Practice—A CFLE is prepared to:

    • Understand the following policy processes (e.g., policy formation, policy implementation, policy evaluation)
    • Identify current laws, public policies, and initiatives that regulate and influence professional conduct and services
    • Identify current laws, public policies, and initiatives that affect families
    • Distinguish between lobbying, policy evaluation, analysis, education, and advocacy
    • Analyze policy resources for evidence of bias (e.g., unintended, inherent, political, self-interest)
    • Inform families, communities, and policy makers about public policies, initiatives, and legislation that affect families at local, state, and national levels
    9. Professional Ethics and Practice

    Content: An understanding of the character and quality of human social conduct, and the ability to critically examine ethical questions and issues as they relate to professional practice.

    e.g., Research and theories related to: Formation of Social Attitudes and Values; Recognizing and Respecting the Diversity of Values and the Complexity of Value Choice in a Pluralistic Society; Examining Value Systems and Ideologies systematically and objectively; Social Consequences of Value Choices; Recognizing the Ethical Implications of Social and Technological Changes, Ethics of Professional Practice

    Practice—A CFLE is prepared to:

    • Demonstrate professional attitudes, values, behaviors, and responsibilities to clients, colleagues, and the broader community, that are reflective of ethical standards and practice
      • Understand the domains and scope of practice for family life educators and the role of collaboration
      • Establish and maintain appropriate personal and professional boundaries
      • Create a personal ethics plan to support/reflect the standards of the profession
      • Maintain current knowledge and skills in the field
    • Evaluate, differentiate, and apply diverse approaches to ethical issues and dilemmas
    • Identify and apply appropriate strategies to deal with conflicting values
    • Demonstrate respect for diverse cultural values
    10. Family Life Education Methodology

    Content: An understanding of the general philosophy and broad principles of family life education in conjunction with the ability to plan, implement, and evaluate such educational programs.

    e.g., Research and theories related to: Planning and Implementing; Evaluation (materials, student progress, & program effectiveness); Education Techniques; Sensitivity to Others (to enhance educational effectiveness); Sensitivity to Community Concerns and Values (understanding of the public relations process).

    Practice—A CFLE is prepared to:

    • Employ a variety of strategies to identify and meet the needs of different audiences
    • Employ techniques to promote application of information in the learner’s environment
    • Create learning environments that are respectful of individual vulnerabilities, needs, and learning styles
    • Demonstrate group process and facilitation skills
    • Demonstrate sensitivity to diversity and community needs, concerns, and interests
    • Develop culturally-competent educational materials and learning experiences
    • Identify appropriate sources for evidence-based information
    • Implement evidence-based programs
    • Design educational experiences:
      • Needs assessments
      • Goals and objectives
      • Content development
      • Implementation
      • Evaluation/outcome measures
    • Promote and market educational programs
    • Implement adult education principles into work with individuals, parents, and families

    From the National Council on Family Relations (2014). Family life education content areas: Content and practice guidelines. Retrieved January 22, 2015, from Used by permission.

    Appendix C Family Life Education Program Resource Review Form

    Use this form to assess the level of quality of outreach family life education (FLE) resource materials, including curricula, videos/DVDs, websites, and other resources. Not all items will apply equally to all resources.

    Reference Information

    Title: __________________________________________________________

    Author: _______________________________________________________

    Source: ________________________________________________________

    Intended Audience. Please note the audience for which the resource is intended. (Check all that apply.)

    __________ Parents (Type ________________________________________)

    (Single, Step, Adoptive, Teenage, All, etc.)

    __________ Children (Age Range and/or Family Type) __________________

    __________ Married Couples

    __________ General Public

    __________ Other (Specify:_______________________________________)

    Delivery Method. Indicate the type of resource. (Check all that apply.)

    __________ News release

    __________ Short brochure

    __________ Long brochure

    __________ Slide/video/DVD

    __________ Program curriculum

    __________ Website

    __________ Other ______________________________________________

    Ratings of the Resource. Please rate the educational resource on the following dimensions. Keep in mind the intended resource and the type of delivery method when making these ratings.

    Appendix D Media Ideas for Teaching Family Life Education Concepts

    Compiled by Susan K. Walker and a Host of Undergraduate FLE Students*

    Film and television have long served as visual narratives of family life. Family life educators can use popular commercial media to help learners gain a deeper understanding of their own lives as they experience the processes, structures, and contexts that influence characters’ behavior, family relationships, and outcomes. They may be fictional accounts told through full features or clips from films, film shorts, television series, or miniseries, or more real-life accounts may be presented through film or television documentaries. A range of media types include recorded disks (DVD; Blu-ray) accessible from retail and resale stores and libraries. The Internet offers options for streaming media through services like Netflix and YouTube and storage of media files for playback on a range of devices from personal computers and projection systems, to personal portable devices like smart-phones and tablets.

    Table 1 provides a list of film titles and television series sorted by family life education concept areas. Titles were selected to represent a range of family perspectives and media that are appropriate for a range of audiences. This is just a sample as every year new releases add to the thousands of titles that convey compelling and sometimes comedic takes on family dynamics. Although titles are assigned certain concept areas, many cover a range of concepts ripe for learning and discussion. This is particularly true of television series like Parenthood or Friday Night Lights that offer a variety of characters and narratives that play out over many episodes.

    Table 1 Suggested Film and Television Series to Teach Family Life Education Concept Areas

    Families in Society


    Akeela and the Bee (2006, PG)

    Avalon (1990, PG)

    Best Years of Our Lives (1945, G)

    Mi Familia (1995, R)

    My Left Foot (1999, R)

    The Namesake (2006, PG-13)

    Soul Food (1997, R)

    Still Mine (2013, PG-13)

    The Age of Innocence (PG, 1993)

    The Blind Side (2009, PG-13)

    A Separation (2011, PG-13)

    That Winslow Boy (1999, G)

    The Joy Luck Club (1993, R)

    Whale Rider (2002, PG-13)

    Internal Dynamics of Families


    Door in the Floor (2004, R)

    The Descendants (2011)

    Little Women (1994, PG)

    Marvin’s Room (1996, PG-13)

    Mrs. Doubtfire (1993, PG-13)

    On Golden Pond (1981, PG)

    The Incredibles (2004, PG)

    The Squid and the Whale (2005, R)

    The Story of Us (1999, R)

    The Tree of Life (2011, PG-13)

    What Maisie Knew (2012, R)

    What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993, PG-13)


    Brothers and Sisters

    Growing Pains

    Friday Night Lights

    Life Goes On (1989–1993)

    Modern Family

    Six Feet Under

    The Middle

    Human Growth and Development


    Boyhood (2014, R)

    Mean Girls (2004, PG-13)

    Mud (2012, PG-13)

    South Central (1992, R)

    Stand By Me (1986, R)

    The Kings of Summer (2013, R)

    The Spectacular Now (2014, PG-13)

    The Trip to Bountiful (1985, PG)

    The Way, Way Back (2013)


    Freaks and Geeks (1999–2000)

    My So-Called Life (1994–1995)

    The Secret Life of the American Teenager (2008–)

    The Wonder Years (1988–1993)

    Human Sexuality


    My Brother . . . Nikil (2005, NR)

    Normal (2009)

    The Kids Are All Right (2010, R)

    Thirteen (2003, R)

    Transamerica (2005, R)


    The Masters of Sex (2013–)

    Interpersonal Relationships


    Amour (2012, PG-13)

    Antwone Fisher (2002, PG-13)

    Crazy, Stupid Love (2011, PG-13)

    Fried Green Tomatoes (1991, PG-13)

    It’s Complicated (2009, R)

    October Sky (1999, PG)

    Shadowlands (1993, PG)

    Tyrannosaur (2011, NR)

    The Whales of August 1987)


    Everybody Loves Raymond (1997–2005)

    Family Resource Management


    Ballast (2008)

    Cinderella Man (2005, PG-13)

    A Home of Our Own (1993, PG)

    The Pursuit of Happyness (2006, PG-13)

    The Ultimate Gift (2006, PG)

    Women of Brewster Place (1989)



    A River Runs Through It (1992, PG)

    Matilda (1996, PG)

    Parenthood (1989)

    Pieces of April (2003, PG1-3)

    Steel Magnolias (1989, PG)

    Stepmom (1998, PG-13)

    The Pursuit of Happiness (2006, PG-13)


    Blackish (2014–)

    Full House (1987–1995)

    Gilmore Girls (2000–2007)

    Modern Family (2009–)

    Parenthood (2010–2015)

    The Cosby Show (1984–1992)

    The Middle (2009–)

    Family Law and Policies


    Black and White (2015)

    I Am Sam (2011, PG-13)

    In the Family (2011)

    Kramer vs. Kramer (1979, PG)

    The Education of Little Tree (1997, PG)

    Ethical Issues and Dilemmas


    My Sister’s Keeper (2009, PG-13)

    Mi Familia (1995, R)

    Couple and Family Counseling


    Don Juan DeMarco (1995, PG-13)

    Hope Springs (2012, PG-13)


    In Treatment (Season 1)

    In addition to visual media, podcasts and audiobooks offer rich opportunities for listening and learning about family life. Radio series that stream online and podcasts rich in family narratives like This American Life and The Moth are particularly valuable for teaching. Learners can listen to short segment stories on their own or during class time, and then participate in discussion. This American Life and other public radio programs often provide transcripts of the programs on their websites, offering a text for further reading and learning.

    Table 2 offers a few examples of media clips that can be the source of rich discussion about family life. The selected examples include film segments, television episode segments, music video, and audio stories. Discussion themes are prompts for the family life educator to encourage learners to demonstrate understanding of the content, and to analyze and apply concepts.

    Table 2 Selected Short Media for Discussion

    Case examples of media applications in teaching family life concepts are offered in Table 3. These examples suggest ways to use viewing a full feature film with an observation guide for class discussion, writing a short paper for analysis and application, and activities for understanding family structure, like the creation of a fictional family genogram or role-playing different endings for scenarios shown in the episode or segment. Table 3 also offers a case study featuring a personal media. Advanced technology that has enabled the Internet to be a place for interactivity, creativity, and personal expression means contributions by real people that may serve to teach and learn about family life. Every day millions of personally created videos and images are uploaded for sharing. Media useful for teaching are those that, like commercially produced films, offer salient messages and concepts and characters for discussion and narratives that tell meaningful and relatable stories.

    This Appendix offers just a few ideas of specific titles and activities for teaching family life with film. The list of references in Table 4 provides many more avenues for reading about how to teach about family life with popular and personal media, where to locate media clips, and examples online and in books that have compiled titles for consumers and professionals. The table also offers places online to read more about a media title, the storyline, characters, critical quality, MPAA rating, and other features that can help determine suitability for teaching and use with particular audiences of learners.

    Table 3 Case Study Examples of Media Applications for Teaching Family Life Concepts

    Film Observation Guide to Fuel Discussion

    The film Mean Girls (2004) includes intentional examples of relational aggression behavior, consequences, and influences that underscore points made when reaching high school or college students, or adults and families through community outreach. In addition, the film is funny and entertaining and hugely popular with young adults. Through produced in 2004, few context features seem dated. Importantly, the themes of cliques, bullying, and social development in early to middle adolescence remain relevant.

    Use of an observation guide. Learners are engaged in discussion about relational aggression and then invited to view the film. An observation guide can be completed while viewing the film or afterward with notes taken while viewing. The guide asks focused questions that encourage observation of social ecology and behavioral characteristics of relational aggressors (bullies, bystanders), family risk factors (e.g., permissive parenting), teacher involvement to guide moral reasoning, and consequences to victims. Upon completing the observation guide, the large group can discuss shared insights about the motivations and influences on the girls’ behaviors and roles played by adults in their lives, particularly parents, teachers, and the school environment. Using critical analysis, students examine how the larger social structure of the school and society may play a role in maintaining aggressive and competitive behavior in girls and impacts on social and self-development. Continued critical discussion can explore interventions and preventive actions that schools and families can take and identify existing programs and resources.

    For use with community audiences, themes mentioned above in the observation guide can be discussed as a group. Adults and teens (together in groups or separately) can identify influences and consequences of the main characters’ actions and the contributions from the family, school, and societal social context.

    Written or Oral In-Depth Film Analysis of a Family Life Theme

    After exposure to key concepts on a family life topic, learners can be asked to view an entire feature or documentary film and prepare an analysis on a particular topic or discuss their analysis as a group. This provides opportunities for understanding, application, interpretation, analysis, and deeper questioning. Analysis can take the form of a written paper, journaling, or facilitated discussion by the family life educator.

    For example, the film The Way Way Back (2013) is a coming-of-age story of a 14-year-old boy spending the summer with his single mother and her boyfriend. He is not happy with the family dynamic and finds happiness by working at a local water park. There he finds a community and the surrogate father figure that support his developing sense of himself. Analysis of this film can explore human development through early adolescence and forces that promote and thwart normative development. Concepts of agency and communion in the several adult-child relationships (mother-son, boyfriend-son, older male friend-son) and adult-adult relationships (boyfriend-mother) are apparent in the film. Analysis can identify differences in parenting style demonstrated by the adults in the boy’s life, and learners should particularly examine contextual and developmental factors that influence the relationship between mother and son over time. The summer experience offers temporary upset to the normal dynamic, and learners can discuss the trajectory that represents change and recovery and actions taken by the mother and son through communication to repair an apparently strong relationship while they too are developing as individuals. And the film offers an array of perspectives on men in contemporary society. Learners can analyze the main male characters (Owen, Trent) and minor characters (Kip, Lewis) for their representations of expectations of men, men’s assertion of power, and actions the men take that demonstrate outcomes that maintain independence or move them toward relationships.

    Role Play Activity

    With their careful scripting, scenes from film and TV shows are efficient at demonstrating heightened interactions between individuals and immediate outcomes (e.g., emotional response, behavior toward the other individual). Learners can analyze the scene individually and in group discussion. Facilitated through group learning, learners can also explore the emotional dynamic of the scene by reenacting it. Role play of the scene enables learners to explore alternative outcomes produced by different choices.

    For example, Table 2 refers to a scene between husband and wife in the television show Everyone Loves Raymond. The scene centers on the possibility of seeking couples’ therapy and reveals differences in views about therapy to discuss. Learners can also identify cognitive distortions expressed by the characters (usually Ray).

    The scene also shows an argument between the couple that exhibits negative responses for relationship strength (e.g., lack of empathy, validation). Through role play, learners can reveal different ways that the conversation could play out. If learners are not comfortable with conducting role plays in a group, the scene can be a source of discussion by a group or reflection by individuals. The family life educator can lead the group in exploration of alternative scenarios.


    To explore the structural dynamics in families, genograms can be a tool to plot family relationships at one point and over time. Family-centric films and television series that provide rich characterizations of most family members are particularly good foundations on which to use a genogram. For example, in the TV show Parenthood, four generations of Buckmans are presented over the duration of the series (2010–2015). Over time, the family structure changes, and a genogram can reveal this. And although primary family members demonstrate close ties, at times the relationships reveal distance and estrangement. Genogram activities can be useful visual mechanisms for learning, whether used in traditional classrooms with high school and postsecondary learners or with others in community settings.

    Analysis of Personal Social Media: Choices and Implications

    In late January 2015, a midwestern father of a teenager posted a nearly 6-minute personal video relating a scenario involving what he felt was racist bullying of his 11-year-old African American daughter and the response by the father of the children who bullied her ( The video content touches on a number of issues familiar to relational aggression and the fears and concerns of parents, and the viral nature of the video post (7 million views in one week) opens up discussion about social media use by adolescents and by parents.

    The is a first-hand account by a White father of an 11-year-old adopted African American daughter who experienced repeated racist bullying by other children using a social media tool, SnapChat. He recounts his attempts to reach the parents of the bullying children to speak about the bullying behavior, leaving phone messages and going to the home, without response. Finally he receives a voice mail from the father that also uses racist words and condones his children’s actions. The father plays the voice mails and relates a discussion with the other father indicating the bullying children’s father’s apathy with sharing the story or the father’s name. The father of the bullied child concludes that he felt no recourse other than to vent his frustrations publically out of fear for his daughter’s well-being.

    In addition to viewing the video, learners are encouraged to scan through the thousands of comments for a further take on the conversation prompted on racism, bullying, parent decision making, and the use of social media.

    Some questions for discussion:

    • What motivated the father to use social media to voice his frustrations? Is this a fair and effective method of sharing one’s thoughts and feelings? What might the father expect to happen as a result of this sharing? What else might he have done?

    • What might be some benefits to the father’s publishing his video account? What might be some consequences? To himself? To his daughter? To his relationship with his daughter?

    • What does the father’s own response to the apparent racism and bullying indicate about family influence on children’s expression of values?

    • How does the availability of social media impact children’s ability to bully each other?

    One website for titles specific to teaching family life concepts is Families Illustrated ( This site offers a searchable database of teaching ideas generated by family life educators and other professionals. Please visit Families Illustrated, and add your own ideas!

    Table 4 Resources on Using Media to Teach Family Life Concepts


    Though slightly dated, these books offers descriptions of films and questions to guide understanding that can be useful for selection of media or as a guide for teaching family themes.

    Minow, N. (2004). The movie mom’s guide to family movies (2nd ed.). New York, NY: iUniverse. Retrieved from

    Hesley, J. W., & Hesley, J. G. (2001). Rent two films and let’s talk in the morning: Using popular movies in psychotherapy (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Wiley.

    Solomon, G. (1995). The motion picture prescription: Watch this movie and call me in the morning: 200 movies to help you heal life’s problems. New York, NY: Aslan.

    Media Review Websites

    Commonsense Media:

    A full media review site, covering film, television, video games, and other media, with ratings for age level appropriateness and a system for understanding the safety and educational value of each medium. Very current. Offers monthly electronic newsletter, reader’s reviews.

    Parent Previews:

    A selection of family-appropriate movies by ratings and reviews by parents.

    Screen It

    Reviews of films, with information regarding ratings and standards. Terrific site for finding out the specific positive or objectionable elements of a film. Ever wonder just how G a PG film is? Or the difference between a PG-13 and an R? This is the site to check out.

    Journal Articles

    Alexander, M., & Waxman, D. (2000). Cinemeducation: Teaching family systems through the movies. Families, Systems & Health, 18(4), 455–466.

    Dermer, S. B., & Hutchings, J. B. (2000). Utilizing movies in family therapy: Applications for individuals, couples, and families. American Journal of Family Therapy, 28(2), 163–180.

    Ender, M. G. (2005). Military brats: Film representations of children from military families. Armed Forces & Society: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 32(1), 24–43.

    Hudock, A. M., Junior, W., & Gallagher, S. A. (2001). Using movies to teach family systems concepts. Family Journal: Counseling and Therapy for Couples and Families, 9(2), 116–121.

    Leon, K., & Angst, E. (2005). Portrayals of stepfamilies in film: Using media images in remarriage education. Family Relations, 54, 3–23.

    Riggs, D.W. (2011). “Let’s go to the movies”: Filmic representations of gay foster and adoptive parents. Journal of GLBT Family Studies, 7(3), 297–312.

    General Media Criticism


    Reviews of films, with a summary score. An easy way to find out quickly just how good a film is, by more than your local critic. Metacritic features reviews of TV, books, and music.

    General Media Information

    Internet Movie Database:

    Authentic and popular source for films, television shows, and celebrity media. Provides reviews, ratings, and summaries of each media clip. Includes parent guide and viewer advisory discussion.

    Media Streaming and Content Resources

    Subscription access to movies and television shows online or stream by Xbox, smartphones, and other devices.

    Amazon Prime Video:


    Source: Adapted from Hughes (1994, 1997).

    * Additional assistance provided by Carly Bauman, Ian Brunzell-Looney, Micah Dalluge, Jennifer Fairbourn, William Michael Fleming, Leidy Kasper, Paying Lee, and Jessica Shankman.

    Appendix E Ethics and Family Life Education

    For decades, the field of family life education lacked an official ethics code, but no longer. Here we briefly chronicle the more recent efforts that eventually led to the development of an officially recognized Family Life Educators Code of Ethics, which is now part of the education and licensure of all family life educators who desire to be certified as a family life educator by the National Council on Family Relations (NCFR). For greater detail about these processes, we direct you to the excellent chapters (Chapters 20, 24, and 25) in NCFR’s compendium, Family Life Education: The Practice of Family Science (Walcheski & Reinke, 2015).

    The Need for the Ethical Standard

    Brock (1993) announced the need for ethical standards for family life educators. He made the persuasive argument that because there are instances where family life educators can do harm, professional conduct should be guided by professional standards in much the same way as are doctors, social workers, and marriage and family therapists. Such an ethical code is a sign that a professional field is established (Cassidy, 2003).

    Ethical Principles and Guidelines

    The “Ethical Principles and Guidelines for Family Scientists” were drafted by the Family Science Section of the National Council on Family Relations (NCFR) and unanimously approved at the April 1998 meeting of the NCFR Board of Directors (Adams, Dollahite, Gilbert, & Keim, 1998). These guidelines were meant to be educational and sensitizing to those who consider themselves family life educators and family scientists rather than an enforced legal code. The guidelines invite family life educators and family scientists to think critically about ethical issues. While ostensibly created with family life educators in mind, most of the principles apply to family research scientists working in university settings. Thus, a credo designed exclusively for family life educators was still yet to come.

    Minnesota Council on Family Relations (MCFR) Efforts

    A pioneer of the current ethics code was the Ethics Committee of the Minnesota Council on Family Relations (MCFR). This group has studied ethical thinking and behavior for parent and family life educators since 1992. In their extensive research, they collected an initial needs assessment from Minnesota parent and family life educators, created and conducted several experimental workshops and field tests to identify guidelines and virtues, and consulted professionals from other fields on professional ethics. Ultimately, the MCFR (2009) developed Ethical Thinking and Practice for Parent and Family Life Educators. This document represents a unique integration of different ethical perspectives (Palm, 2015). These include relational ethics, a principles approach, and virtue ethics.

    Relational Ethics.

    Relational ethics essentially asks, What principles shall guide my interactions with clientele and other family life educators? This approach focuses on the importance of relationships in any kind of interaction. It stresses understanding relationships as the foundation from which ethical decisions should be made, suggesting that a careful examination of the network of relationships that parent and family life educators encounter is the first step toward applying principles and finding a solution. Relational ethics is also seen as a call for action, meaning that caring relationships should be a constant goal and consistently worked toward by periodic evaluation to understand the state of a particular relationship. Emphasis is put on process and content for moral behavior. General guidelines for developing healthy, caring relationships with the different groups certified family life educators work with are incorporated in each section of the code of ethics (Bredehoft & Walcheski, 2009).

    Principles Approach.

    Similar to the relational ethics approach, this framework emphasizes specific principles, set as the ideal level of practice in order to achieve and maintain healthy relationships, between the certified family life educator and the public as well as among families they are helping. These principles were developed inductively through workshops to be used to guide family life educators in responding to ethical dilemmas. The principles approach essentially asks, How shall I deal with ethical dilemmas that arise in my practice of FLE?

    Virtues Ethics.

    Virtue ethics asks, What characteristics are important for me to embody as a family life educator? While many characteristics may be seen as important as a family life educator, the MCFR group ultimately decided on three virtues (Palm, 2015):

    • Caring (the disposition to support the well-being of family members as decision makers in their own lives)
    • Prudence or practical wisdom (the ability to understand competing needs in complex situations and make decisions based on reflection and consultation with peers)
    • Hope/optimism (the disposition to focus on the strengths and positive potential of family members and other individuals and to maintain a positive attitude in the face of adversity)

    With minor adaptations, MCFR guidelines became the officially recognized Family Life Educators Code of Ethics, which is now part of the education and licensure of all family life educators who desire Certified Family Life Educator (CFLE) certification.

    Family Life Educators Code of Ethics (NCFR, 2012): Preamble

    Family life education (FLE) is the educational effort to strengthen individual and family life through a family perspective. The objective of family life education is to enrich and improve the quality of individual and family life by providing knowledge and skills needed for effective living. FLE emphasizes processes to enable people to develop into healthy adults and to realize their potential. Family life education helps people to work together in close relationships and facilitates the ability of people to function effectively in their personal lives and as members of society. While various professionals assist families, it is the family life educator who incorporates a family-systems, preventive, and educational approach to individual and family issues.

    Family life education includes knowledge about how families work; the inter-relationship of the family and society; human growth and development throughout the life span; both the physiological and psychological aspects of human sexuality; the impact of money and time management on daily life; the importance and value of education for parenting; the effects of policy and legislation on families; ethical considerations in professional conduct; and a solid understanding and knowledge of how to teach and/or develop curriculum for what are often sensitive and personal issues.

    A professional code of ethics provides guidelines when confronted with challenging and difficult ethical dilemmas. They serve notice to the public, and profession, as to the principles and values that will guide decision making under such circumstances. The ethical principles put forth in this Code of Ethics are standards of conduct in which Family Life Educators consider in ethical and professional decision making.

    Ethical Principles for Parent and Family Life Educators
    I. Relationships with Parents and Families
    • I will be aware of the impact/power we have on parents and family relations.
    • I will strive to understand families as complex, interactive systems where parents have the primary responsibility as educators, nurturers and limit-setters for their children.
    • I will respect cultural beliefs, backgrounds and differences and engage in practice that is sensitive to the diversity of child-rearing values and goals.
    • I will help parents and other family members recognize their strengths and work with them to set goals for themselves, their children, and others.
    • I will respect and accept parents and other family members for who they are, recognizing their developmental level and circumstances.
    • I will support and challenge parents to continue to grow and learn about parenting and their child’s development.
    • I will communicate respectfully and clearly with all family members.
    • I will communicate openly and truthfully about the nature and extent of services provided.
    • I will support diverse family values by acknowledging and examining alternative parenting practices that support healthy family relationships.
    • I will include parents/other family members as partners in problem solving and decision-making related to program design and implementation.
    • I will be proactive in stating child guidance principles and discipline guidelines and encourage non-violent child rearing.
    • I will create data privacy and confidentiality guidelines respectful of family members and protective of their legal rights.
    • I will provide a program environment that is safe and nurturing to all family members.
    • I will ensure that all family members have access to and are encouraged to participate in family education.
    • I will support family members as they make decisions about the use of resources to best meet family needs.
    • I will support healthy interpersonal relationships among all family members.
    • I will encourage family members to explore their values and promote healthy sexuality in their family.
    II. Relationships with Children and Youth
    • I will treat children and youth with respect and sensitivity to their needs and rights as developing persons.
    • I will strive to understand children and youth in the context of their families.
    • I will do no harm to children and youth and insist on the same from others.
    • I will advocate for children and youth and their best interests at the same time that we work with the parents and other family members.
    • I will provide environments that are respectful of children and youth and sensitive to their developmental and individual needs.
    • I will support the right of all children and youth to have access to quality education, health and community resources.
    III. Relationships with Colleagues and the Profession
    • I will value and promote diversity in staff.
    • I will provide staff with policies and support systems for addressing difficult situations with family members, colleagues and others.
    • I will follow data privacy policies that meet legal standards and are based on respect for family members.
    • I will follow the mandatory reporting of abusive family behavior in a respectful and prudent manner.
    • I will define our role as parent and family life educators and practice within our level of competence.
    • I will recognize the difference between personal and professional values in our professional interactions.
    • I will support the ongoing development of a knowledge base that guides us towards ethical and effective practice.
    • I will be committed to ongoing professional development to enhance our knowledge and skills.
    IV. Relationships with Community/Society
    • I will be knowledgeable about community resources and make and accept informed, appropriate referrals.
    • I will be aware of the boundaries of our practice and know when and how to use other community resources for the benefit of family members.
    • I will communicate clearly and cooperate with other programs/agencies in order to best meet family needs.
    • I will advocate for laws and policies that reflect our changing knowledge base and the best interests of parents, families and communities.
    • I will respect and uphold laws and regulations that pertain to our practice as parent and family life educators and offer expertise to legal authorities based on professional knowledge.

    By my signature below, I verify that I have read these ethical principles and that they will guide my professional practice as a Certified Family Life Educator


    Print Name


    Signature    Date

    This signed document should be submitted along with the CFLE Abbreviated Application, the CFLE Exam Application, or as part of the Recertification or Upgrade processes.

    Source: Drawn from the Minnesota Council on Family Relations (MCFR). (2009). Ethical thinking and practice for parent and family life educators. Minneapolis: Minnesota Council on Family Relations.

    The Family Life Educators Code of Ethics is copyrighted by the National Council on Family Relations and is used here by permission. Link to it at:


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    About the Authors

    Stephen F. Duncan is a professor in the School of Family Life at Brigham Young University. He received a master’s degree in family sciences (Family Life Education emphasis) from Brigham Young University and a PhD in family studies from Purdue University. He has authored or coauthored numerous outreach publications for lay audiences and professionals, written hundreds of articles for newspaper columns, been interviewed numerous times for television, radio, and magazine outlets, and directed nationally recognized outreach family life education programs. He served as an Extension family life specialist at Auburn University in Alabama for 5 years and held a similar position at Montana State University for more than 7 years. At BYU he teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in family life education and directs outreach projects for the School of Family Life. He directs the Forever Families website ( and was content director for Real Families, Real Answers, a Rocky Mountain Emmy Award-nominated documentary series appearing on public television channels nationwide. He has certification as a family life educator. Dr. Duncan has actively contributed to the scholarship of family life education, authoring numerous articles on outreach programs and evaluation, many of which have appeared in leading family life education outlets. He serves or has served on several editorial boards, including Family Relations, Journal of Couple and Relationship Therapy, and Family Science Review.

    H. Wallace Goddard is retired from being a family life specialist at the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service. His earlier experience included serving as an Extension family and child development specialist at Auburn University for more than 6 years, during which time he developed Principles of Parenting, a broad parenting program that has been adopted by several states, and The Great Self Mystery, a youth identity program that has been adopted by national organizations. He was also one of four scholars invited to develop the National Extension Parent Education Model, which is the base document for all extension parent education. He writes monthly columns for several Web magazines on various family subjects and has authored general audience family books. In addition to work in Extension, he also provided content expertise to Stephen R. Covey when he wrote The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families. Experience in both university and business settings has provided a wealth of background in family life education. He also has graduate training in instructional psychology and certification as a family life educator. During 14 years of work with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, he developed a television series for public television; developed programs on parenting, personal well-being, and parenting; and worked on the national team that developed a model of couple relationships. Many of his programs can be seen at He has served as chair of the Education and Enrichment section of the National Council on Family Relations, the premier family professional organization in the world, and is an NCFR fellow and recipient of the Margaret E. Arcus Outstanding Family Life Educator Award.

    Susan Calahan is an associate professor of health education in the Education Department at Southern Connecticut State University, where she teaches both graduate and undergraduate courses. She received her BS degrees in secondary education and health education from Eastern Oregon University, an MS in health education from Brigham Young University, and a PhD in health education from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. Dr. Calahan has conducted and published research related to adolescent health behaviors, sexuality and the media and educational and program assessment, as well as curriculum development and evaluation. She also has worked internationally studying health behaviors of adolescents in Ukraine. She has been an educator for 28 years and is a former junior and senior high school teacher and also has worked in the field of occupational health.

    Sarah L. Curtiss is a doctoral candidate in the department of Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She received her BS in psychology from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2004 and an MS from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in human development and family studies in 2013. Ms. Curtiss formerly managed a day program for adults with developmental disabilities. She now conducts applied research on how to support individuals with autism and their families with living more freely and fully in their communities.

    Aaron T. Ebata is an associate professor of social development in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he also holds an appointment as an Extension specialist with the University of Illinois Extension and serves as the director of the Autism program at UIUC. He received his BS degrees in biology and psychology from the University of Hawaii and completed his MS and PhD degrees in human development and family studies from Penn State. His research and outreach interests focus on applying research to develop and evaluate programs that promote healthy parenting practices, with a focus on technological applications for outreach. A former preschool and elementary school teacher, Dr. Ebata is married and the father of two sons.

    Tonya Fischio is a public relations professional who has worked in the field for 10 years. After receiving her communications degree from Brigham Young University, she worked in the New York office of Edelman Public Relations and at Nu Skin International in Utah. She has held positions in internal communications, international relations, crisis management, and media relations. Specializing in media relations, she currently manages the media outreach efforts for the Family Studies Center in the School of Family Life at BYU. In this capacity, she used both the local and national media to share family research findings and university-sponsored family-related programs with targeted audiences.

    Alan J. Hawkins is the Camilla E. Kimball professor of family life at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. He earned a master’s of organizational behavior from BYU in 1984 and a PhD in human development and family studies at the Pennsylvania State University in 1990. He has been teaching and conducting research and outreach at BYU since then. Professor Hawkins’s scholarship and outreach has focused on educational interventions and policy to help couples form and sustain healthy marriages and prevent unnecessary divorce. He has published widely on this topic in leading journals. In 2003 to 2004, he was a visiting scholar with the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, working on the federal healthy marriages initiative. He was the research director of the National Healthy Marriage Resource Center from 2004 to 2006. He serves as chair of the Utah Marriage Commission.

    Kayla M. Sizemore is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Child and Family Studies at the University of Tennessee. She received her BS in psychology and her MS in clinical psychology from Morehead State University. During her graduate work at Morehead State University, she served as graduate codirector of the MSU Family Development study, helping to collect and analyze longitudinal data on attachment, parenting, and parent-child interactions among low-income families residing in Eastern Kentucky. She has also worked as a graduate assistant in the Center for Parenting at the University of Tennessee, under the supervision of Dr. Heidi Stolz.

    Charles A. Smith is a parent educator and professor emeritus in the School of Family Studies and Human Services at Kansas State University. He holds a BS in psychology from the University of Dayton and both an MS and a PhD in child development from Purdue University. He worked extensively with young children as director of the Child Development Center at Texas Tech University, as a preschool teacher, and as a play therapist in a children’s hospital. Raising Courageous Kids: Eight Steps to Practical Heroism (2004) is the most recent of his five books. His websites, The WonderWise Parent ( and Raising Courageous Kids (, provide additional information about his programs.

    Heidi E. Stolz is an associate professor in the Department of Child and Family Studies at the University of Tennessee, where she also serves as the codirector of the Center for Parenting. She received her BA in economics from Whitman College, BEd in secondary education from the University of Puget Sound, MA in human development from Washington State University, and PhD in marriage, family, and human development from Brigham Young University. Dr. Stolz conducts basic research on mothering, fathering, and parenting, as well as program evaluations of parent training programs. She is a member of the National Council on Family Relations.

    Susan K. Walker is an associate professor and director of parent and family education in the Department of Family Social Science at the University of Minnesota. She holds a BS in nutrition from Drexel University and an MS in nutrition from Penn State. Following 10 years in community nutrition, she received her PhD in child and family studies from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Dr. Walker worked for 12 years at the University of Maryland, College Park as a faculty member and Extension specialist in the Department of Family Studies and has been at Minnesota since 2007. Her applied work intersects research on parent learning, the design and evaluation of educational programs, and preparation of professionals for effective family education. Most recently this research has explored the integration of technology and the Internet as modes and spaces for parent learning and engagement. She is married and has a daughter in college and shares her home with a cat and a dog.

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