Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - NSU Access Only

Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Center for the Advancement of Education


The idea of a strong family is a very subjective concept. A strength, according to one set of criteria, could easily be interpreted as a weakness according to another set of criteria--and vice-versa. Most scholars of the family would agree that a strong bond of affection between family members is usually an asset. But if this affection is manifested in extremely dependent and stifling relationships among family members, such a bond would generally be characterized as a "pathological" liability. The family has traditionally provided the foundation for society, and, though in contemporary America some of its functions have been absorbed by other social systems, it is still responsible for the primary socialization and care of people. Moreover, most adults report that achieving satisfying relationships within the family is very important (Stinnett and Walters, 1977). The concept of family strengths implies that the stronger family is more desirable for the stability of society (Grams, 1967), and it has been noted that societies with strong family systems tend to recuperate rapidly from conditions of adversity whereas the opposite types recover only with great difficulty (Zimmerman, 1972). Because of these factors, healthy families are both functional for society and the individual. The fact that American Black families have survived under such political, social and economic adversity can be seen as a monument to their strength. This case study was designed to analyze what were perceived as family strengths among Black families in Alaska. The results of this research will be used to educate the Department of Family and Youth Services' workers and Juvenile Probation Officers through in-service seminars to the fact that all families have strength and that Black families should not continually be defined as a pathological unit. A series of workshops will be designed and implemented to train probation officers and social workers assigned to the Department of Family and Youth Services (DFYS) in the concept of building family strengths. The training will consist of ten sessions called the "Building Family Strength" program. The program will include six basic areas of strengths identified through past research and any new strengths that were identified as a result of this study of Black families. The six basic strengths on which the workshops will be based are commitment, wellness orientation, effective communication, frequent appreciation, positive time together, and constructive strategies for dealing with conflict, stress and family crises. These workshops will be conducted ln a relaxed, peer-group environment utilizing the basic assumption of the Building Family Strength (BFS) model that "all families have strengths." The implications of these workshops will be that a more professional and understanding attitude will be assumed by caseworkers and probation officers within DFYS when dealing with families, especially minority families. The BFS model is preventive and promotive of change within the family. Most existing educational models are reactive: they focus on what to do after a problem already exists. A preventive and promotive educational model is proactive in the sense that its focus is to anticipate changes that take place over the no=mal course of family development. The need for family educational intervention through the family strengths model is significant. Families are often left on their own to cope with the extreme pressures brought on by conflict, stress and crisis. The implications to society are far-reaching if families do not have the tools with which to survive and grow. Families need help in learning to more effective utilize available resources, generate new ones, and build family strengths. In that sense, the family is a natural resource.

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