Family development theory










Family development theory

It began in 1940s as one of the first family focused theory having separate identity from psychology and sociology. Psychology based -theories didn’t emphasize on individuals hence never explained what happened in families with competing different needs. Sociology based theories focused on the society and culture thus the critiques of these two perspectives were the genesis of this theory. Family life cycle had two stages, the expansion where children are born and raised and the contraction where they exit the family home, which give rise to family life cycle (Duvall 1957)

In 1948, Duvall came up with eight stages of family life cycle   best-known stages of family development theory that explains about the tasks performed by parents and children. According to theorist Roy Rodgers, families were influenced by institutional norms, expectations from the family itself and by expectations of the individuals within the family itself. Joan Aldous suggested the use of family career instead of life cycle as families never returned to the way they were at the beginning of their lives as a family. Tracey laszloffy (2002) changed family development theory to address two important weaknesses; assumption that all families and a bias towards the experience of a single generation experience the stages.

Basic assumptions of family development cycle (Aldous and white) are;

  1. Families change over time just like individuals. This helps understand them. Transitions from one stage to another are related to individual changes due to maturation and aging, relationship between members, family structure and norms associated with family roles.
  2. There are tasks attached to each stage of development that must be accomplished to prepare for the next stage of development. Failure to perform this task cannot hinder one from getting to the next stage but it limits a family from functioning best at the next stage.
  3. Institutional norms regulate family behaviors. These rules regulate how family members fulfill their roles within the family.
  4. Development is reciprocal as development of each family member also influences the rest of other family members
  5. Families must be viewed in multiple levels of analysis
  6. Families should be viewed over time as they change from time to time.

Duvall(1977) describes a family as a group of persons related by marriage, birth or adoption whose purpose is to maintain and create a common culture promoting physical, social, mental and emotional development of each of its members. Family develops as it shifts from one stage to another. It can be analyzed into four levels (Rodger and white); individual family members, family relationships, family group and institution of family.

For the family life cycle to be complete, different stages, changes and transitions must occur.

Both static and process norms govern both group and individual behaviors hence defining the roles people play. Timing is an important factor in a family .It rules out when families are to engage in particular behaviors or undertake some tasks. Each stage has different events and developmental tasks associated with it.

Family careers indicated that families followed stages that were predictable but not cyclical in nature in order to understand the family. Understanding the family as a dynamic process encourages the researcher to see the fluidity and the interrelationships between the process of development, the individual and the context of development(Fuller and Fincham 1994) .Family therapy supports family development theory by defining family more broadly and by lengthening to include changing developmental trajectories(Carter and McGoldrick model)

According to the systemic family model (Tracey laszloffy), each family’s developmental pattern is different.  This model provides a way for the family scholars, educators and therapists to view family in multiple developmental cycles while respecting different social contexts affecting development. It even allows us to investigate the influence across and within generations. Scholars also use it as a research tool.

Family development theory has received criticism for being descriptive and not research generating. It is perceived to lack a sense of usefulness as it had little predictive power. Because of this critics, white (1991) worked to formalize the theory in a more scientific way that can predict family functioning. The success of family development theory will depend on its own ability to incorporate both varied and diverse family experiences.








Works cited;

Exploring family theories book by Suzanne R, Raeann R, Bron B, Elizabeth miller (2008)

Family theories book by James M, David M, Todd F(2014)





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