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Adapted from: My Family, Past, Present and Future: A personal exploration of marriage and the family 2005 Scott

t M. Williams, MA, & Wendy Hill Williams, MA Pearson Custom Publishing Chapter 22 Family Resiliency and Stress Theories As individuals and their families develop over the human life cycle change will inevitably occur. Those who resist this process often add unnecessary stress to their lives. Individuals and families who learn about, and adapt to, the predictable changes and prepare for unknown difficulties along the way increase the possibilities of personal and relational fulfillment. Family Stress Theories Various theories and models have been created to explain the many variables families encounter during times of stress and crises. In 1946 Kos presented the Koos Roller Coaster Model of family stress. While a relatively simple model, its visual timeline reinforces that for a family to successfully resolve a crisis it must view the process as a variable of time. Wesley R.
Angle of Recovery Crisis

Level of Reorganization

Period of disorganization

Burr, Shirley R. Klein and Associates. Reexamining family stress: New theory and research, p. 35. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. ABCX Model The ABCX model presented by Hill in 1949 is a comprehensive approach to the many variables involved in understanding how families cope with stress. Life the theories presented in Chapter 3 this theory also makes certain assumptions and utilizes specific concepts. This model views stress as a normal and inevitable part of family life, and when it occurs it disrupts the balance or equilibrium of family functioning. As this happens each family member has their own unique perception of the stressor. The family then copes with the stressor by attempting to maintain equilibrium. This model is dynamic as it emphasizes all three elements (stressors, resources, and perception) are continually in motion (McCubbin, & McCubbin,1991). A (Stressors) Stressor events involve anything that disrupts the equilibrium of the family. These events have the potential to produce positive or negative change in the family system. If family

members have not adequately resolved the impact of earlier stressors, called prior strains, they may have greater difficulty resolving the current stressors. Normative stressors involve the developmental or universal challenges most families encounter, such as the birth of a new baby or launching a child. Nonnormative stressors involve the idiosynchratic challenges and events not typically present in families. These would include events like the death of a child, or premature death of a spouse. Some stressors, called external stressors, originate outside the family. While these stressors are often very difficult for families to cope with they can have the effect of uniting the family as they join together to struggle against an outside force. Examples of outside stressors include natural disasters, changes in the interest rate, or prejudices against women or minorities. Internal stressors originate within the family, such as a childs drug abuse, or a parents job change. Stressors are also defined as either volitional or non-volitional. Volitional stressors are chosen, or sought out by an individual member, subsystem, or entire family unit. Volitional stressors are usually chosen to create growth and/or to avoid the negative consequences of doing nothing. Some examples include going to college, taking a job promotion, and choosing to begin a family. Non-volitional stressors are not chosen or sought out and as a result may be viewed as a negative event in the life of the individual or family. How long the stressor lasts is also a significant factor in the ABCX Model . Acute stressors last for a relatively short period of time. While they certainly disrupt the equilibrium of the family, they do subside providing the family time to resolve their challenges. A cold or brief illness is an example of an acute stressor. Chronic stressors last for long periods of time and their disruption are much more difficult to resolve given the ongoing nature of the stress. Cancer, or ongoing poverty, are examples of chronic stressors. If the family can adequately resolve a stressor before the next one occurs, it is referred to as an isolated stressor, and they have a much greater propensity to remain resilient in their journey. However, sometimes stressor events pile up making it difficult to adequately resolve a stressor before another one occurs. When this happens they experience cumulative stressors. When families experience multiple stressors simultaneously they are at increased risk as their resources are taxed and must be distributed in many different directions (McCubbin, & McCubbin,1991). B (Resources) Depending upon many factors including socioeconomic class and cultural background, a variety of resources may be available to families coping with stressors. Resources include anything the individual or family has to enable them to cope with the crisis. Material resources, such as a car or a job, are important when resolving stressors. Financial resources permit the family to seek out goods and services to assist them with their crisis. Knowledge is also helpful in times of stress and the family that knows how to accumulate helpful information is at a great advantage. Strong social support systems are vital to individuals and families experiencing a crisis. The local community and extended family can provide emotional and physical support in times of difficulty. Practical coping skills in times of crisis are invaluable resources. Members who have mastered effective coping skills before a crisis occurs are a steadying influence in times of distress (McCubbin, & McCubbin,1991). C (Perception of Stressors) How an individual, subsystem, and family perceives the events of the crises significantly influences the outcome. The way people perceive difficult experiences can range from very pessimistic (concluding that the worst outcome will occur) to very optimistic (concluding that wonderful things will result from the stresses). Their experience with past difficulties often shapes their perception of current ones. Each culture gives messages about the proper way to think and behave during a crisis. Families interpret these cultural messages as they do their own perspective to current problems.

When family members view stressors as overwhelming, they may become immobilized in their capacity to find ways to move forward. These families are at risk of becoming less functional over time. Conversely, when family members acknowledge the difficulty, and concurrently look for ways to improve themselves, they are much more likely to recalibrate their family system to an even more functional equilibrium than prior to the stressor. Reframing a difficult stressor as a possibility for growth is the best perception a family can have (McCubbin, & McCubbin,1991). X (Crisis) All three of these variables (the stressor, the available resources and the perception of the event) interact with one another to create the outcome of the crisis. The magnitude of the crisis determines the amount of disruption that occurs in the family system. As explored in the Family Systems Theory Model of Chapter families engage in ongoing interactions with one another to keep equilibrium in their system; a process called homeostasis. In the ABCX model two different families might experience the same stressor, yet the first family may never enter a state of crisis while the second one may be completely overwhelmed by the stressor. The stressor, resources and perception of the event (A, B, and C components) determines X, the outcome of the crisis (McCubbin, & McCubbin,1991). Double ABCX Model In 1981 McCubbin and Patterson introduced an adaptation of the ABCX model, with additional components of how families respond to the crisis (X), creating a more wholistic, less linear approach to the model. This is referred to the post-crisis period while ABC is referred to the pre-crisis period (McCubbin & Patterson, 1983). Oftentimes families experience cumulative stressors which makes it difficult for them to adequately resolve a particular stressor before additional stressors occur. Referred to as the pile-up of stressors, the family now re-enters the model making A (stressors), B (resources), and C (perception) a more complicated challenge. As new stressors appear, the family has the task of dealing with multiple stressors, with multiple resources, and multiple perspectives about how to deal with them all. How the family adapts to these factors results in a new level of equilibrium or balance. Bonadaptation occurs when the family copes in a healthy way and establishes a new equilibrium that is more positive than the prior equilibrium. When this occurs the family now has new energy to promote the development of each family member while maintaining the family unit as it moves toward the next developmental milestone. However if the family adapts poorly and creates a new level of equilibrium becoming less functional than before, maladaptation occurs. When this takes place the family is vulnerable to future stressors, making it less likely to promote individual and family growth (McCubbin & Patterson, 1983). The Family Adjustment and Adaptation Response Model (FAAR) In the development of this model Patterson (1988) draws upon many of the concepts of previous models utilizing the key components and adding the concepts of family demands, family capabilities, and family meaning. Family demands include all of the challenges that families encounter such as the normative and nonnormative stressors as explained above, ongoing family strains like the unresolved issues that linger on between family members, and daily hassles including the dayto-day challenges all families experience. Family capabilities include the family resources and their coping behaviors, which are so essential in times of difficulty. Family meaning includes the familys perception of the demands they face, referred to as primary appraisal, as well as their perceptions of their capabilities, referred to as secondary appraisal. How the family views itself as a unit, family identity, and their family world view, how they see themselves in relationship to the world they interact with, are also important factors in the meaning attributed to a crisis (Patterson (1988). Families attempt to balance their family demands with their family capabilities while moving to a new level of adaptation. This adaptation occurs between family members ( intrafamilial) and between the

family as a unit and their community (Patterson, 1988). Resiliency involves the capacity to respond to a crisis in a constructive and positive manner doing well in the face of adversity. There are many factors that determine if a person, family, or a group will either deteriorate or grow in response to a crisis. It is not only the magnitude of the stressful event that determines how resilient an individual or family is. How they perceive the event, the skills and resources they currently have to cope with difficult experiences, and the various resources available to them are factors that determine their level of resiliency (Patterson, 1988). Stress, Crises, and Resiliency Stress involves physical and emotional strain with no two people responding in exactly the same manner. The stressors people experience can be acute lasting for a short period of time, or chronic, lasting a long time or even indefinitely. Because of the complex nature of human beings, people experience stress in many different ways. Common physical manifestations include headaches, neck and back pain, gastrointestinal distress and heartburn. In severe cases stress can cause loss of hair and a variety of other physical ailments such as numbness in the body that has no physiological explanation for its occurrence. Common psychological manifestations include a variety of emotions such as sadness, anxiety, anger, and depression as well as difficulties concentrating. In severe cases stress can create a variety of psychological disorders including taking on another persons identity and afterwards having no recollection of the experience. Common social manifestations include increased conflicts, sexual difficulties, and problems in intimate relationships. While stress is an inevitable part of life, a stressor is not the same as a crisis. When a person (or a group of people) experience a crisis the magnitude of the stressor is so great that they are no longer able to function the same way they did prior to the event. They must alter and adjust their thoughts and behaviors to function during the time of crisis. Psychologists typically identify three stages of a crisis . First there is an event or series of events that disrupts the normal functioning of the individual or system. Second, there is a period of disequilibrium where thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and circumstances are altered. The third stage of the crisis involves a new point of equilibrium which may be at the same, lower, or higher level of functioning prior to the stressful crisis. Typically crises are categorized as either developmental or idiosynchratic. Developmental crises, sometimes referred to as universal, involve the transitions experienced as individuals and families transition through various stages of the life cycle. These common crises are experienced by most, if not all, people (Jackson, 1974).While all developmental crises require adjustments, often they are welcomed with an anticipation of the rewards found in the next stage of development. A child walking, starting school, or leaving home requires adjustments by the family members, yet is often celebrated as a positive experience. Most of the developmental milestones in Chapters 10 (Developmental Theory) and 11 (Lifespan Development) as well Chapters 14-18 (Adolescents through Old Age) qualify as developmental crises. A closer examination of these stages reveals most people must change their thinking and behaviors to successfully adjust (Jackson, 1974). Idiosyncratic crises are those life experiences not experienced by most people and may be so rare that the majority of people have no previous experience with them. Because of the unique nature of these experiences, people are often caught unprepared by their presence. Some examples include the following: Financial Difficulties Health Difficulties such as cancer Mental, Emotional or Physical Specific Childrearing Difficulties Disabilities Major Accomplishments (educational Abuse of any type (sexual, physical, achievement, job promotion, etc.) chemical) Natural Disasters such as earthquake, Winning the lottery

fires or floods As you will note, these are not always catastrophic, but can be. Some may involve positive experiences that are still out of the norm of typical experience, such as winning the lottery. Resiliency involves the capacity to respond to a crisis in a constructive and positive manner. There are many factors that determine if a person, family, or a group will either deteriorate or grow in response to a crisis. It is not only the magnitude of the stressful event that determines how resilient an individual or family is. How they perceive the event, the skills they currently have to cope with difficult experiences, and the various resources available to them are factors that determine their level of resiliency (Patterson, 2002). The Process of Grief Loss in a universal life crisis that everyone experiences sooner or later. Grief is the psychological process of resolving a loss. Successfully managing a crisis often involves experiencing and working through grief and loss. People continually form attachments to many different animate and inanimate objects. Some of the animate objects include family members, friends, and coworkers. Some of the inanimate objects people attach to include their material possessions, the pursuit of a dream, activities they love to participate in, and special environments in their life which could be the out of doors or their favorite coffee house. When a person loses one of these attachments a process of grief begins. This process occurs regardless of whether the person wanted to lose the object or how well prepared they were for that loss. While various factors impact the magnitude of the loss, grief is the psychological process of successfully adjusting to the change. Cognitively the mind can quickly process the facts of a loss. Emotionally the process of grief takes much longer as the length of time is often determined by the strength, depth and duration of the attachment as well as any additional unresolved issues relating to the loss. Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, a Swiss physician who treated the terminally ill after World War II, was a pioneer in the understanding of the psychological process of grief. Much of what we know today she learned as she spent time talking with terminally ill patients who knew they were going to die soon. She observed that they went through specific stages of grief in anticipation of their death. Through her many discussions and research with these patients (combined with her subsequent worldwide studies) she concluded that the following five stages of grief are universal to humanity. She found that the process of grief occurs when someone is anticipating a loss (as she found in her patients) as well as after a loss has occurred (as she discovered in the family members as they attempted to cope after their loved one was gone). Scholars have since found that any type of loss, not only death, qualifies for grief and the greater the attachment the greater the grieving process. Stage of Grief Denial Anger Bargaining Key Psychological Issues Feeling numb, shocked, overwhelmed, and often becoming isolated from friends or loved ones. Irritation, aggression, rage, and bitterness at self, others, and institutions involved in the loss. Anger at the doctors involved in the treatment is common during this stage. Psychological negotiation of reflecting upon the events that lead to the loss and asking if alternatives could have been pursued that would have stopped the loss. A terminally ill person often bargains with God in this stage asking for more time to be able to attend a significant event such as a childs



bar mitzvah or wedding. Loss of hope that bargaining will work, may show little interest in external events, may cry and stare into space as the loss is completely acknowledged psychologically. The reality of the loss has sunk in. There is no undoing it. Depression decreases as the person moves on. In this stage the individual learns to love and invest in life again.

These stages of grief are not experienced as a linear process with the suffering person moving sequentially from stage to stage. Rather they are stages that people will enter into and move out of over a period of time. While Denial is often the first stage of grief after a loss and Acceptance is the desired goal of the model, many people will move back and forth between different stages depending upon where they are in their resolution. With severe losses such as the death of a family member, it is common to experience these stages at any time during an initial phase (sometimes a year or longer) then experience a type of moratorium or relief from the grief for periods of time before reentering the stages again. Many people find that if they are open to addressing each stage when they occur, the pain and difficulty surrounding the loss decreases. Furthermore, events typically filled with emotion, such as a birthday or particular holiday, are often triggers for the person to re-experience one or more of the stages of grief. While no two people experience grief exactly the same way, there are many variables that determine how the process of grief occurs. Each culture creates its own special set of expectations for its grieving members as seen in the student examples below. Research reveals that men and women tend to process their losses in different ways. Men generally ignore adversity and find ways to distract themselves from their emotions. Men use a variety of distracting strategies such as exercise, abusing substances, or focusing exclusively on their work (Sprecher & Hatfield, 1987). Women often ruminate about their problems attempting to determine if they were to blame for the loss and determine exactly what occurred that resulted in the loss. In addition women are more inclined to seek out other people and discuss their grief in attempt to resolve their loss (Sprecher & Hatfield, 1987). Personality traits combined with learned behaviors from family and society also influence the way a person grieves as does each individuals prior level of functioning. Different types of losses also impact grief. Anticipatory grief occurs with prior knowledge of an impending death or loss. Complicated grief often occurs after experiencing a sudden or unexpected death of a loved one. Homicide or suicide are particularly complicated losses to resolve.

From Risk to Resiliency: What Schools Can Do

All Individuals Have the Power to Transform and Change Many researchers and practitioners have latched onto these personal attributes, creating a myriad of social and life skills programs to directly teach these "resilience skills." The strong message in resilience research, however, is that these attitudes and competencies are outcomes--not causes--of resilience. These are the growth capacities which have enabled survival throughout humanhistory. Moreover, they are the very samepersonal strengths that have enabled each of our own life journeys. Resilience is clearly something more.WernerandSmith(1992)refer to resilience as our innate "self-rightingmechanism"(p.202)and Lifton (1994) identifies resilience as thehuman capacity of all individuals to transform and change--no matter their risks. Basically, we are genetically hard-wired with developmental needs thatmoveus naturally toward these resilient outcomes:

The critical question becomes, "If all individuals have these innate needs andcapacities, why do some youth turn to drugs and gangs to get their needs met while other youth turn away? " The answer comes to us from both the lifespan studies of resilience as well as research into healthy families,successful schools, competent communities, learning organizations, and program evaluation research (Hattie, Marsh, and Richards, 1997; Ianni, 1989; McLaughlin, Irby, and Langman, 1994; Meier, 1995; Resnick, Bearman, Blum, Bauman, Harris, Jones, Tabor, Beuhring, Sieving, Shew, Ireland, Bearinger, and Udry, 1997; Rutter, Maughan, Mortimore, Ouston, and Smith, 1979; Schweinhart and Weikart, 1997; Tierney, Grossman, andResch,1995; and Tobler and Stratton, 1997). These positive developmental outcomes, that is, the personal strengths of resilience, consistently result from the presence of a nurturing climate that draws them forth and encourages their expression. Research validates what has nurtured most of us in our own life journeys. It consistently identifies the power of three environmental protective factors that buffer risk and allow development to unfold: caring relationships, positive and high expectations, and opportunities to participate and contribute (Benard, 1991).