Why do some families survive stressful situations while others fall apart? Can a family’s beliefs and values be used as a predictor of vulnerability to stress? And most importantly, can family stress be prevented? The Third Edition of Family Stress Management continues its original commitment to recognize both the external and internal contexts in which distressed families find themselves. With its hallmark Contextual Model of Family Stress (CMFS), the Third Edition provides practitioners and researchers with a useful framework to understand and help distressed individuals, couples, and families. The example of a universal stressor—a death in the family—highlights cultural differences in ways of coping. Throughout, there is new emphasis on diversity and the nuances of family stress management—such as ambiguous loss—plus new discussions on family resilience and community as resources for support.

Family Stress An Overview

Family Stress: An Overview

The Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy began his book Anna Karenina with these famous words: “All happy families are all alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way” (1877/2001, p. 1).

Unlike Tolstoy, we focus on stress, not unhappiness; yet, our core premise about difference is the same. That is, distressed families are different in their own way, even within one community or culture. Each family’s process has unique qualities. Values and beliefs often vary so that what distresses one family (or family member) may not distress another. While there are similarities among families, we focus, as did Tolstoy, on the differences that exist among troubled families.

In this chapter, we introduce and define the concept of family ...

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