Family Life Education has endured multiple evolutions, definitions and criteria since its origins in contemporary family science between 1881 and 1920. Currently, Family Life Education has tightened the reigns of its purpose, created fundamental criteria and yet still leads itself to an assortment of interpretations. For the purpose of this paper, I will endeavor to give my individual definition of Family Life Education based on course readings and research, the guiding principle of FLE, a theoretical perspective that supports and, is most relevant to my definition of Family Life Education and, a personal philosophy of ‘education’.
What does Family Life Education signify to me? Depending on the company you keep, this is a potentially loaded question. Within the realm of my present circle, the question does hold a realistic explanation. Family life education has been significant in the historical development of several educational enterprises (Arcus, vol. 1, 1993, p. 46); therefore, lending itself to the family life professional to select a track that best complements their own philosophies and professional preparation.
The definition by the National Council on Family Relations (2006) sums up what FLE means to me, “Family life education is the educational effort to strengthen individual and family life through family perspective. The objective of family life education is to enrich and improve the quality of the individual and the family life. ” As a future professional in this distinctive field, I strive to possess the many characteristics of a well-rounded practitioner, including, but not limited to, sound knowledge of the professional content and to function, when needed in a multidisciplinary approach.
As the possibilities to individual and family composition are endless, the ability to draw from other disciplines is crucial. It is probable that when working with a family for instance that is struggling with an issue, the family life professional would need to utilize an approach that incorporated all of Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences (1983). In addition, it is also important to note Family life educators have used educational concepts as their solitary approach to ‘multidisciplinary’
intervention (Arcus, vol. 2, 1993, pg. 28) and this approach has created concern amongst scholars and professionals alike. To become multi disciplinary, Arcus (1993) offers that through the use of knowledge from a broader range of disciplines and through greater cooperation among the contributing disciplines, true multidisciplinary approach can be attained. As indicated previously, the composition of individual or family is infinite and special attention needs to be paid to issues of diversity.
Within the profession of Family Studies, there is particular emphasis on valuing differences and respecting those distinctions (Arcus, vol. 2, 1993, pg. 28) furthermore, creating effective working relationships with persons served. Lastly, to complete the puzzle of the well rounded practitioner, one must be able to utilize their own life experiences relevant to family life topics and to honestly accept those experiences as not to furnish hypocritical recommendations. To further personalize my definition of Family Life Education, I have compiled some additional ideas.
It is unlikely that a professional in the field of Family Studies is wandering aimlessly without purpose or direction. Typically, they are a part of an organization that is providing services to individuals or families with a set of defined needs. Even more likely it is the responsibility of the professional to design, develop and deliver the services needed by means of effective programming. The Family Life professional becomes the program and an effective program does not rest solely on content (Brindis & Davis, et al, 1998, part IV).
The professional must mobilize for action by increasing awareness and generating support of a program, assess the needs and assets of the populations served and build strong foundations that will serve to protect the potential of the program and last, but surely not least, design an effective Family Life Education program. Designing a new or adapted family life education program frequently entails many planning and management issues. The development is easier when the concerns are planned for at the onset.
Think about how to advocate for the program, especially in the face of controversy. Expect controversy (Brindis & Davis, et al. 1998, sect. IV). Controversy or conflict is seguing to the subsequent topic, the guiding principles of Family Life Education. Intervention, the anti-conflict: Being proactive in a reactive world. ‘Intervention by way of education’, this statement, in my opinion is the guiding principle to family life education. No matter how you slice it, the opportunity to impart an intervention is endless. Intervention can have many connotations.
In day to day life it is regularly defined as an unwelcomed interference. For instance, a wife introduces an intervention for her substance abusing husband, of which does not want to admit to or take responsibility for his addiction. Therefore the husband would characterize the intervention as ‘unwelcomed interference’. For the purpose of family studies, the definition takes a neutral stance to denote the ‘taking of clearly defined actions to induce change’ (Encarta English Dictionary). The change is expected to be positive, indicating harmony or affirmation.
Societies evolve along different cultural, religious, historical, economic, geographical, and political paths. At any time, members of different societies view themselves and the world from distinctive perspectives. Yet global trends in communication and information dissemination, entertainment, and other economic and commercial exchanges always affect local realities, sometimes more than people living in those localities fully understand. How children, adolescents, and adults are assigned roles ultimately reflects the convergence of such societal paths and global trends.
The preceding statements have the potential to be segue ways and/or roadblocks to the family professional. The professional should establish family life education at an early age, to combat the notion of reaction and to introduce the idea of prevention, lessening the likelihood of ever intervening. The introduction of a program that would counter negative or damaging societal outcomes should implement age appropriate curricula, especially when working solely with school age children, which meets the developmental needs and matches backgrounds and life experiences of all individuals involved.
What are “universal” interventions? As adapted from Family Health International (2001), •Offer education and skill-building •Engage youth caretakers, including parents, extended family, or other adults such as teachers and youth workers. •Engage youth themselves in program design, development, implementation, and evaluation. •Ensure access to counseling and other services that respond to the special needs of the individual or family •Augment collaboration and effective referrals among existing health and other development agencies and organizations.
•Coach program site managers, service providers, and others to improve their interactions with individuals and families •Have clear goals, target populations, and indicators while building in monitoring and evaluation from the beginning of a project; use such findings to improve strategies and services. The family life professional should strive to maintain balance and realistic programming and to ultimately provide information and activities that encourage skill development that is relevant and useful.
Imparting a value system and norms when they are lacking or completely absent to an individual or family is an asset to the overall program, especially when follow through is a potential issue. A basic skill set is at least in place. Last but not least, ensure that your program is based on a solid theoretical model. Ability, Desire and Potential: Why MI theory is relevant to Families “Successful and unsuccessful people do not vary greatly in their abilities. They vary in their desires to reach their potential.
” – John Maxwell During the tenure of this course, Family Study Methodologies, we have encountered many theories and how they are or have been significant to the field of Family Life Education. The theories have run the gamut from their birthplace in social theory and social therapy to a current state of post modern, contemporary status. As indicated by Lavee and Dollahite (1991), there is a weak link between theory and research in modern family science and they go further to say, from multiple points of view, it is imperative to couple theory with research methods.
There are multiple approaches to theory and research in the family sciences (Sourcebook, pg. 17) and there is not one that is committed as the ‘flagship theory’ to FLE. Rather the “interplay between scholars, families and the socio-cultural context that surrounds them” (Sourcebook, pg. 18). These connections should pay special attention to the unique quality of families in society and how these families function within their environment. It is necessary to confirm what I mean by theory within the field of family life education.
As defined by Gibbs ( 1972, p.5),sourcebook p 20 theory is “ a set of logically interrelated statements in the form of empirical assertions about properties of infinite classes of events or things”. This definition lends itself to the notion of a conceptual framework, a theory that has not come full circle. Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligences fits this description. Although there are several intelligences define which possess a sound theoretical foundation, eight to be exact, there are additional ‘intelligences’ waiting in the wings for validation; therefore supporting the notion of the conceptual framework.
Gardner’s theory is relevant to family life education, in part due to its flexible and expandable nature but mostly because the ‘family’ is a phenomenal, progressive body that needs room to evolve, just as MI theory continues to do. References Brindis, C and Davis, L et al. (1998) Designing effective family life education programs. Advocatesforyouth. org. Four sections. Retrieved April 13, 2008, from www. advocateforyouthorg/PUBLICATIONS Lavee, Y. , & Dollahite, D. C. (1991) The linkage between theory and research in family science. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 53, 361-373.
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