Culture and Family

The interaction of culture and family is critical to understanding family processes. The task of the family is to translate cultural norms and teach the child to deal with the culture(s) in which the family is immersed, while holding to its own boundaries and values, which may or may not reflect the dominant culture.

Cultural studies began with ideas of the reification of different cultures (this is Japanese culture, this is Hispanic culture). We have moved to an understanding that for everyone, but particularly for emigrants to the US and may be first second or third generation Americans, multiple and complex cultural identities are the norm.

As the SAMHSA article below suggests, “Family members may have multiple cultural identities that shift over time. The fluidity of culture and acculturation processes needs to be acknowledged. Bicultural and hybrid identities are dynamic elements that shift during child development and across generations, and they need to be explored. Identity issues are best explored through inquiry and addressing our preconceived ideas about the values and experiences of families and children of a particular culture.”

Most persons in the US live in a series of microcultures. For example, a Southern rural person’s value system, belief system and ways of conducting family may be fundamentally different from that of someone living in NY city, although they might be classified by someone in another country as American.

Psychiatry has taken up the challenge of understanding health and psychopathology in terms of cultural norms and the Cultural Formulation Interview is part of the DSM V. Calls for cultural competence have included calls for cultural humility.

References on Specific Cultures

Falicov CJ: Latino Families in Therapy, 2nd Edition: A Guide to Multicultural Practice. New York, Guilford Press, 2013

Lee E (ed): Working With Asian Americans: A Guide for Clinicians. New York, Guilford Press, 1997

*McGoldrick M, Giordano J, Garcia-Prero N (eds): Ethnicity and Family Therapy, 3rd Edition. New York, Guilford Press, 2005

McGoldrick M, Hardy KV (eds): Re-Visioning Family Therapy, Second Edition: Race, Culture, and Gender in Clinical Practice. New York, Guilford Press, 2008

Trinh N-H, Rho YC, Lu F, Sanders KM (eds): Handbook of Mental Health and Acculturation in Asian American Families. New York, Humana Press, 2009

Boyd-Franklin N: Black Families in Therapy: Understanding the African-American Experience, 2nd Edition. New York, Guilford Press, 2006

Rastogi M, Thomas VK (eds): Multicultural Couples Therapy. Thousand Oaks, CA, Sage, 2008

Sue, D.W., Capodilupo, C.M., Torino, G.T., Bucceri, J.M., Holder, A., Nadal, K., & Esquilin, M. (2007) Racial Microaggressions in Everyday Life: Implications for Clinical practice. American Psychologist, May-June.

McIntosh, P., (1988). White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.

Felicia Chang