A Model Approach to Enhancing Family Unity in the 21st Century

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AModel Approach to Enhancing Family Unity in the 21stCentury


Family unity in the 21st century is becoming harder to achieve due tothe constantly changing nature of the household environment. Familiesin the contemporary world are affected by working patterns.Previously, the man was the family’s breadwinner and the woman tookcare of the household chores. However, with changing gender roles,women have taken on more responsibility in search of family income,which has made relationships more complicated since they are alsoexpected to take care of domestic issues (Ben-Galim &amp Thompson,2013, p.9, par 1). The McMaster model of family functioning (MMFF) isused to enhance family unity as it deals with the maintenance anddevelopment of families on psychological, social, and biologicalissues.

TheoreticalBackground and Assumptions

The model emanates from systems theory and includes some assumptions.It assumes that all family parts are interrelated, and it isimpossible to understand one fragment in isolation from the rest. Itobserves the difficulty of understanding the functioning of a familythrough the characteristics of individual members. The modelperceives the importance of organization and structure in determiningand influencing how family members behave. Finally, it stipulatesthat the behavior of household members is shaped by transactionalpatterns within the family system (Lenders, 2015, p. 5).

Categories of Family Issues

The McMaster model of family functioning (MMFF) categorizes familyissues into basic, developmental and hazardous task areas. The basicfunction is the most fundamental and deals with matters such as theprovision of food, shelter, transportation and money. Thedevelopmental task capacity is further divided into individual andfamily stages of growth. The individual developmental stages entailinfancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood and aging. In contrast,the family developmental stages revolve around the family life cyclethat embraces marriage and earlier years before bearing children. Thefamily develops from bearing children and taking them to school.Later, the children become teenagers, launch their careers, and thefamily develops into the aging stage (Contributions from the McMastermodel, 2016).

The crisis tasks include all the hardships experienced by the familysuch as illnesses, job loss, accidents, relocations or even death.Families that can deal and adopt with stressful life occasions andtransitions maintain healthy family environments. According to themodel, families that do not handle these task areas develop problemsthat harm the unity of the household (Contributions from the McMastermodel, 2016).

Characteristics of Unified Families

The model observes that there are characteristics that define theability of parents to deal with hardships. They include problemsolving, communication, affective responsiveness, family roles, andbehavior control (Lenders, 2015, p. 10).

Problem-Solving Characteristics

Problem solving is the ability to resolve difficulties withoutcompromising the active functions of the family (Lenders, 2015, p.9). Problems are issues that pose a threat to the integrity andfunctional capacity of a family and which the members have trouble insolving. Family problems are divided into either instrumental oraffective difficulties. Instrumental difficulties revolve around thedaily functioning of the household. Such challenges are related tothe strategies used by the family in obtaining food, managing money,provision of clothing and housing. In contrast, affective problemsrelate to the affections, feelings or emotions of the members. Themodel observes that families affected by instrumental problems havedifficulties in dealing with affective glitches. In contrast,families faced with affective difficulties can comfortably deal withinstrumental problems. It also observes that although the problemshave a tendency to overlap the components of problem solving,well-functioning families have the ability to resolve most of theirproblems efficiently and relatively quickly compared tonon-functional households (Lenders, 2015, p.14).

Steps to Solve Problems

The model outlines some of the steps undertaken in solving problems.The first step is identifying the problem. The effectiveness of theprocess creates the problem patterns, which define the rate at whichfamilies accomplish their goals. The second phase entailscommunication with appropriate people about the problem. The thirdstage requires developing alternative solutions. The nature ofsolutions generated depends on the understanding generated from thebrainstorming activities of the members. The fourth step involvesdeciding on one of the alternatives. The step entails evaluating theapplicability of all the generated options and choosing the bestapproach. Fifth is acting on the decisions made in the previous step.Sixth involves monitoring how the decisions are carried out. Finally,the family evaluates the effectiveness of the decision to identifyany need for changes (McMaster Model, 2016).


The model observes that communication is the second characteristic ofeffective families. It calls for verbal communication since nonverbalcommunication is bound to result in ambiguity. The model emphasizesthat the pattern of communication adopted by a family determines theefficiency of the members in solving problems. It provides thatcommunication in a family setting can be either affective orinstrumental. According to the model, families only encounterproblems in affective communication but function well in instrumentalcommunication (McMaster Model, 2016).

Family Roles

The third characteristics of unified families are their roles. Familyduties are repetitive patterns of behavior fulfilled by the familymembers. Effective families are defined by how well they executetheir tasks and functions. The necessary family functions include theprovision of resources, nurture, and support, sexual gratification,personal development, maintenance and management of the family system(McMaster Model, 2016).

Unified Responsiveness

The fourth characteristic of families is unified responsiveness.Effective families possess the ability to respond to affectivestimuli with the full spectrum of experienced feelings. The modelprovides that affective stimuli emanate from either emergency orwelfare emotions. Welfare emotions are feelings of affection, warmth,support, tenderness, love happiness, consolation, and joy. Emergencyemotions encompass fear, anger, disappointment, sadness anddepression (Lenders, 2015, p.27).

Behavior Control

Finally, the model observes that the unified families are identifiedthrough their behavior control strategies. Families monitor theirbehaviors in physically dangerous situations, in situations thatentail meeting or expressing psychobiological needs and drives and ininstances that require socialization behavior among family membersand people outside the family system (McMaster Model, 2016).Physically dangerous situations monitored by families includeobserving children from harm, reckless driving, suicidal gestures orexcessive drinking. The need for physical monitoring increases whendealing with aged family members due to their diminished cognitiveabilities. The model discerns the need to adopt psychobiologicalpatterns such as eating, sleeping, sex and aggression. It alsoidentifies the need for a family to adopt socialization behaviorssince different rules are guide outside the family-relatedsocializations (McMaster Model, 2016).


In summation, the MMFF model is an approach that enhances familyunity in the 21st century. Notably are the dimensions of the model,which cover what families need to do in a rapidly changingenvironment. Assignment of responsibilities is a prudent approach toavoiding future conflict due to the changing nature of gender rolesin the current world. It also fosters accountability for theresponsible family members. Besides, affective involvement makes thefamily member feel appreciated and enhances family unity. Clear anddirect communication, proper problem solving, and flexible behaviorcontrol help in strengthening the unity of the household members.


Ben-Galim, D. &amp Thompson, S. (2013). Who’s breadwinning?Working mothers and the new face of family support. The Institutefor Public Policy Research.

Contributions from the McMaster model. (2016). Integrated FamilyTherapy. Web. Retrieved fromhttp://www.integratedfamilytherapy.com/mcmaster/

Lenders, S.R. (2015). The role of family functioning in thedecision-making styles of adolescents in the Overberg area(Unpublished doctoral thesis). University of the Western Cape, CapeTown, South Africa.

McMaster Model: Six main dimensions of family functioning. (2016)Integrated Family Therapy. Web. Retrieved fromhttp://www.integratedfamilytherapy.com/mcmaster-model/

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