The Contemporary American Family: A Dialectical Perspective on Communication and Relationships recognizes that families are both close and distant, stable and changing, amenable and uncontrollable. Teresa Chandler Sabourin employs a dialectical approach, acknowledging that a family’s contradictions and relational tensions may be the determining factor in its interaction. Writing in a direct and simple style, Sabourin uses this innovative theoretical position to address four types of family diversity: structural, cultural, developmental, and functional. Designed as a supplemental text for upper-level undergraduate and graduate courses in Family Communication, The Contemporary American Family is also an invaluable resource for students in Family Studies and Women’s Studies courses.
Chapter 2: Defining the Contemporary Family
Defining the Contemporary Family
What is a real family? Ultimately, the answer will depend on the criteria used to define family. Researchers who define family are starting to recognize that “contrary to established theories of family life as based on obligations among particular members to fulfill unique functions, families are now based on more voluntary ties, choices, and needs” (Allen, Blieszner, & Roberto, 2000, p. 913). This means that the definitions of family may reflect a variety of criteria with varying levels of consistency. Furthermore, we often assume these criteria rather than stipulate them overtly, which means we cannot compare results. Even worse, we may be unaware of the criteria that we use. In this book, the criteria I use to define contemporary ...