As a response to the changing structure of the American family, the present study identifies themes of family functioning from individual family members' personal narratives. Analysis was guided by the previous work of Stinnett (1979; Stinnett & DeFrain, 1985). Eight themes were generated from participants' personal narratives: loving-supportive environment, communication, family rituals and togetherness, stability, abuse, parental roles and responsibilities, individual issues, and external factors. These dimensions support and extend Stinnett's characteristics of strong families. Findings also indicated that, overall, individuals used the terms “perfect” and “dysfunctional” to describe opposite ends of the family functioning continuum. A descriptive framework of family functioning is suggested, focusing on parental roles and responsibilities as a key dimension leading to positive family experiences.
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