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.    

The Contemporary Family: Structural Diversity

The contemporary family: Structural diversity

Common Family Structures

It has been common practice to assume that structure is destiny when it comes to predicting the quality of family life because, as Allen and Farnsworth (1993) claim, the knowledge base on which family studies rest is biased toward “white, middle-class, heterosexual, married adults with children” (p. 352). They go on to say that “this family structure, known as the bench-mark family, is the standard against which all other families are judged” (p. 352). In the hierarchy of family structures, we tend to place the nuclear family ahead of all other configurations. “In functionalist thought, certain structures become institutionalized, that is, culturally legitimated. Variations on those structures are labeled as deviant” (Scanzoni & Marsiglio, ...

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