Alumni, Community and Student Engagement Initiatives

Poverty, Family Stress and Family Therapy

Family therapy researchers and clinicians have demonstrated, for close to fifty years, how increased levels of family poverty lead to increased levels of family stress, which, if not managed optimally through a sound family structure, family resilience, and effective support networks, could contribute to familial and individual dysfunction (Minuchin, 1967; Aponte, 1994; Minuchin, 1998). In the mid to late 1960s Malone (1963) and Minuchin (1967) found that poorly structured disorganized families had children who showed predictors of chronic acting out and impulse disorder (i.e. low levels of frustration tolerance). It is important to note that family structure in the field of family therapy refers to transactional patterns among interrelated subsystems within the larger family system. This definition diverges from the often-utilized conceptualization of family structure, which relies heavily on physical membership of the family system (i.e. single parent family, intact family, extended family, etc.).

Family therapists believe that restructuring a family system will increase the functionality of all members of the system and the system as a whole Contemporary research has validated this belief. For example, there has been extensive research that shows that an optimized family structure has a significant impact in reducing adolescent delinquent behaviors, conduct disorder, and alcohol abuse (Sexton and Alexander, 2003). It has also been found to be effective in decreasing truancy and out of home placements, and increasing school performance (Henggeler, Sheidow, and Lee, 2007). Family therapy interventions have been found to be both effective and efficient in diminishing negative developmental outcomes in minors.

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