African American Family Life: Ecological and Cultural Diversity


This volume offers new perspectives on the cultural, economic, and community contexts of African American family life. Recognizing the diversity of contemporary African American families, leading experts from diverse disciplines present the latest knowledge on such topics as family formation, gender roles, child rearing, care of the elderly, and religious practices. Particular attention is given to how families draw on cultural resources to adapt to racial disparities in wealth, housing, education, and ...
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This volume offers new perspectives on the cultural, economic, and community contexts of African American family life. Recognizing the diversity of contemporary African American families, leading experts from diverse disciplines present the latest knowledge on such topics as family formation, gender roles, child rearing, care of the elderly, and religious practices. Particular attention is given to how families draw on cultural resources to adapt to racial disparities in wealth, housing, education, and employment, and how culture, in turn, is shaped by these circumstances. Factors that promote or hinder healthy development are explored, as are research-based practices and policies for supporting families' strengths.
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Editorial Reviews

Doody's Review Service
Reviewer: 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.
From the Publisher

"The message of this book is clear and timely: there is no single portrait of the African American family, only many and diverse versions of these families. By highlighting the varied ecological circumstances of African American families and the range of historical experiences that continue to produce myriad family types, this volume not only provides scholarly insights but also offers an empirically grounded platform for guiding social policies for different groups of families. The focus on the strengths and resilience of these families is a welcome corrective to earlier deficit models and the pathologization of the African American family. Scholars in a variety of fields, including psychology, ethnic studies, anthropology, social work, family studies, and education, would profit from this volume. This book deserves a prominent place in the library of all serious students of the contemporary African American family."--Ross D. Parke, PhD, Center for Family Studies and Department of Psychology, University of California, Riverside

"This is a very fine book. It brings a fresh approach to the study of African American families. The ecological perspective is especially appropriate to the study of families. The authors together make it clear that African American families not only grow out of and are shaped by the varied cultural streams in American life, but also make a contribution to the continuing streams of cultural diversity....Will be especially useful as a supplementary text in African American Studies and Family Studies."--Andrew Billingsley, PhD, Department of Sociology and African American Studies Program, University of South Carolina, Columbia

"An intensive examination of the many facets of family life in Black America. This is an excellent text for graduate and advanced undergraduate students seeking the most recent data on this racially, culturally, and socioeconomically diverse population. The editors are to be congratulated for assembling this amazing cadre of contributing authors."--Harriette McAdoo, PhD, Department of Family and Child Ecology, Michigan State University

The Family Psychologist

"A 'must have' reference....It has been a handy resource in intervention planning for my individual family intervention program that serves fifty African American families who live in an urban area. I have also used it with good success in a training workshop for behavior management staff who provide school intervention to teens....The material also is relevant to the graduate level family therapy and diversity classes that I teach."--The Family Psychologist
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Vonnie C. McLoyd, PhD, is Professor of Psychology and Research Scientist at the Center for Developmental Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). Her scholarly work focuses on the effects of economic disadvantage and employment-related transitions on family life and child development, and the mediators and moderators of these effects. Dr. McLoyd is also interested in how race, ethnicity, and culture shape child socialization and development. She is director of a training program at UNC in research on Black child development, funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Nancy E. Hill, PhD, is Associate Professor of Psychology at Duke University and Faculty Affiliate of the Center for Developmental Science at UNC. Her research focuses on how family socialization varies across ethnicity and socioeconomic status, and demographic variations in the relationship between family dynamics and children's development, especially among African American and Latino families. She is one of the founders of the Study Group on Race, Culture, and Ethnicity, an interdisciplinary group of scientists brought together to develop theory and methodology for defining and understanding cultural contexts.

Kenneth A. Dodge, PhD, is the William McDougall Professor of Public Policy Studies and Professor of Psychology at Duke University. He directs the Duke Center for Child and Family Policy, which is devoted to finding solutions to problems facing children through research, policy engagement, service, and education. Dr. Dodge is interested in how problem behaviors such as chronic violence, school failure, drug use, and child abuse develop across the lifespan; how they can be prevented; and how communities can implement policies to prevent these outcomes and promote children's optimal development.

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Table of Contents

I. Emergent Issues, Themes, and Conceptualizations
1. Ecological and Cultural Diversity in African American Family Life, Vonnie C. McLoyd, Nancy E. Hill, and Kenneth A. Dodge
2. Sociocultural Contexts of African American Families, Nancy E. Hill, Velma McBride Murry, and Valerie D. Anderson
3. Trends in African American Child Well-Being, 1985-2001, Vicki L. Lamb, Kenneth C. Land, Sarah 0. Meadows, and Fasaha Traylor
4. Racial Wealth Inequality and the Black Family, William A. Darity, Jr. and Melba J. Nicholson
5. New Families, New Functions: Postmodern African American Families in Context, M. Belinda Tucker and Angela D. James
II. African American Families in Community Contexts
6. Marital Relationships of African Americans: A Contextual Approach, Chalandra M. Bryant and K. A. S. Wickrama
7. Work and African American Family Life, Vonnie C. McLoyd and Noemi Enchautegui-de-Jesus
8. Homeplace and Housing in the Lives of Low-Income Urban African American Families, Linda M. Burton and Sherri Lawson Clark
9. Religion in African American Family Life, Jacqueline S. Mattis
10. A Model of Extended Family Support: Care of the Elderly in African American Families, Peggye Dilworth-Anderson and Paula Y. Goodwin
III. Socialization Processes in African American Families
11. Family Practices and School Performance of African American Children, Oscar A. Barbarin, Terry McCandies, Cheri Coleman, and Nancy E. Hill
12. The Cultural Context of Physically Disciplining Children, Kenneth A. Dodge, Vonnie C. McLoyd, and Jennifer E. Lansford
13. African American Families as a Context for Racial Socialization, Stephanie I. Coard and Robert M. Sellers
14. Beyond the Birth Family: African American Children Reared by Alternative Caregivers, Ellen E. Pinderhughes and Brenda Jones Harden
15. Style Matters: Toward a Culturally Relevant Framework for Interventions with African American Families, Howard C. Stevenson, Donna-Marie Winn, Chanequa Walker-Barnes, and Stephanie I. Coard
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