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Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: Gary B Kaniuk, Psy.D.(Cermak Health Services)
Description: This book discusses various issues affecting African-American families today. It shows how environment affects culture and vice verse, a reciprocal determinism, presenting the challenges and opportunities for the 21st century.
Purpose: According to the series editors, "This volume is the third in the Duke Series in Child Development and Public Policy, an ongoing collection of edited volumes that address the translation of research in child development to contemporary issues in public policy. The goal of the series is to bring cutting-edge research and theory in the vibrant field of child development to bear on problems facing children and families in contemporary society" (p. xi). They continue, "The current volume brings multiple disciplinary perspectives to bear on important issues facing African American families in the 21st century. It emphasizes family strengths in growing wealth, religiosity, family relationships, and rich cultural traditions. It also addresses important challenges that African American families face, ranging from children's academic development to balancing family needs and employment" (p. xii). Those are worthy objectives. The book definitely met the series editors' objectives.
Audience: According to the back flap of the book jacket, "Unique in the breadth and depth of its coverage, this book is an essential reference and text for researchers and students in developmental psychology, family studies, public policy, and sociology, and will also be of interest to educators and clinicians". I agree with the target audience stated above. The editors and contributors are credible authorities in the subject matter of the book.
Features: The book is divided into three parts: 1. Emergent Issues, Themes, and Conceptualizations 2. African American Families in Community Contexts 3. Socialization Processes in African American Families. The book gives a great overview of the many issues that African American families deal with. In the first part, I really enjoyed Chapter 5—New Families, New Functions (Postmodern African American Families in Context). The authors described how families are changing in terms of function including socioemotional, economic caretaking, and role development. They provide interesting policy implications. In addition, Chapter 12—"The Cultural Context of Physically Disciplining Children" brought up some interesting points, especially in our age of "hands-off" parenting and trying to distinguish between abuse and discipline. And finally, Chapter 15—"Style Matters" gives recommendations to therapists on how to intervene in a culturally-relevant way by considering: a. The Dynamic Use of Language b. Spirituality and Religion c. Human Connection d. The Psychology of Movement e. Racial and Cultural Socialization The book has no obvious shortcomings.
Assessment: I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It provides the reader with relevant information about African American families. It is easy to read and covers the ground one would expect. It challenges you to go beyond conventional thinking and deal with difficult issues. This was probably said well in Chapter 15 when the authors stated: "To be culturally attuning, interventionists must consider how Black families, their functioning, and their worldviews are both the same as and different from other families'. Nevertheless, this value of human connection presupposes that helpers must get closer to, rather than distant from, the cultural expression of Black clients" (p. 322). You won't be disappointed with this volume.