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Strength-based family assessment: A paradigm shift utilizing a family functioning scale to identify strengths

Marcia Lee Krasnow, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Enhancing and facilitating a strength-based intervention model presents a challenge for practitioners and those involved in program design and policy. This study examined a shift away from a deficit-based approach and toward strength-based assessment of family functioning within current early childhood practices. The initial effectiveness of the Family Functioning Style Scale in facilitating the re-framing of family functioning was assessed and patterns of reported family strengths were analyzed and compared. A random sample of 64 parents, equally representing four different early childhood program models, were asked to complete the scale, participate in informal discussion, complete a follow-up questionnaire, and answer follow-up questions individually three months later. The sample of parents reflected equal distribution among Head Start, Day Care, Early Intervention and Pre-School Special Education programs as well as represented equal distribution with respect to ages served (0-3, 3-5) and special education program and regular education models. The study also included a sample of 13 professionals, representing the four programs, who completed the scale based upon their knowledge of 13 of the families in the parent sample. While inter-class correlation coefficients indicated that there was no significant evidence to show that there was a difference in the rating of family strengths between parents and professionals, professionals expressed a need to gain further familiarity with the strengths of families they served. When asked if completing the scale helped them to identify family strengths, 77.6% of the respondents to this question indicated that they felt the scale had been effective. The area of strength most frequently reported by the total sample was in cohesion. The area of strength least frequently reported by this sample was in communication. Income was significantly correlated with the full scale score (FFSS) and the strength dimensions of competence and cohesion. Risk factors, such as low income and social isolation, were felt to impact the reporting of strengths within each sub-group. Several significant differences between the four sub-groups were reported with respect to the full scale mean scores as well as within several of the strength dimensions. This study supported further investigation of the use and effectiveness of scales as well as the option of interviews in order to assess family strengths and facilitate a strength-based model for intervention. In addition, the researcher emphasized the importance of staff training and policy formation in order to support program models in their effort to create environments which will maximize the recognition of family strengths and nurture the empowerment of families.

Subject Area

Preschool education|Developmental psychology|Educational psychology|Social work|Families & family life|Personal relationships|Sociology

Recommended Citation

Krasnow, Marcia Lee, "Strength-based family assessment: A paradigm shift utilizing a family functioning scale to identify strengths" (1995). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9524721.