Wiley & Ebata 2004

Wiley & Ebata 2004 - Reaching American Families:...

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Unformatted text preview: Reaching American Families: Making Diversity Real in Family Life Education * Angela R. Wiley** and Aaron Ebata The American population is constantly evolving, as are its needs for family life education. We discuss how family life educators can address issues of diversity in developing and conducting programs for families. Domains for change are suggested in which educators can incorporate cultural competence in their daily work. Four general strategies are presented for extending programming to more audiences. Interwoven throughout are specific examples and recommendations for use by family life educators. We end with a diversity agenda for the future. T he American family often is portrayed as an institution in precipitous decline after a high point in the 1950s ( Popenoe, 1993 ) . Many contemporary scholars of the family and its history question this notion of decline and the accompanying comparison of families to some ideal form ( Barnett & Rivers, 1996 ) . They present compelling evidence that families are flexible entities that continuously and dramat- ically change over time and across groups in response to external forces such as economic trends and sociopolitical shifts ( e.g., Coontz, 1992 ) . The larger body of scholarship supports that the family always has evolved a number of diverse forms to meet external demands. Coontz ( 2000 ) summed up the consensus by suggesting that family variations in any historic period represent normative responses to various social, cultural, and economic forces and conflicts. Data from the United States census demonstrate the change in family demographics over time. For example, only 9% of households were composed of single persons in 1950, compared to 25% in 2000, and married-couple households fell from 78% in 1950 to 51% in 2000 ( Hobbs & Stoops, 2002 ) . In 1900, half of the population was under 23 years old, whereas more than half was older than 35 in 2000 ( Hobbs & Stoops ) . The population also has grown increasingly metropolitan, from 28% in the early part of the century to 80% in 2000, although this growth occurred mostly in the suburbs and not in city centers ( Hobbs & Stoops ) . In these and other ways, American families continue to change. In this article, we address how family life educators can consider and address issues of diversity in developing and con- ducting programs for families. We begin with some definitions of family and diversity, because those terms often are used and highly contested ( Allen, Fine, & Demo, 2000 ) . We discuss the current state of diversity preparation for many family life edu- cators, and the results of a national survey that underscores the importance of additional training and professional support. We suggest some domains for change in which educators can begin to incorporate cultural competence in their daily work and dis- cuss four general strategies for extending programming to a broader or more diverse array of audiences. Interwoven through- out are specific examples and recommendations for use in the...
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Wiley & Ebata 2004 - Reaching American Families:...

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