Teaching Family Policy – Definitions & Dimensions
Students and faculty alike often struggle with what “family policy” is and what it is not. Denise Skinner of the University of Wisconsin-Stout details below definitions that she uses to help students understand what is within and outside the parameters of the field.
What is “FAMILY POLICY?”
- Public Policy
- Family policy is fundamentally concerned about the family as the basic social institution
Family Policy as:
- A perspective – for understanding and thinking about the actions of government and consequences of these actions for families
- A process – of collective decision making
- A field of activity – the wide range of family-related programs that result from policymaking (e.g. family preservation, family and medical leave, income supports)
Types of Family Policy
- Explicit – those policies in which the consequences for families are deliberately structured
- Implicit – those that have nonfamilial objectives but which nonetheless affect families
Explicit Family Policy is directed at:
- Family Composition: Childbirth, marriage, divorce, adoption, foster care
- Economic Support: Families’ abilities to provide for their dependents’ basic needs (food, shelter, health and clothing)
- Development of Children: Parents’ ability to nurture, rear, educate children
- Family Care: Families’ ability to care for members and relatives who are chronically ill, frail, or have disabilities
- Partner Relationships: Families’ ability to foster and maintain committed, stable partner relationships
- Level of Government
Local (county, city, school board)
- Branch of Government
Dimensions of Family Policy
- Policy to maintain the status quo or as a force of change?
- Policies for family groups and systems for individuals?
- Policies that see the family (children) as a public or private institution?
- Policies that are targeted or universal?
- Policies at the macro-level (economic support, housing, etc.) or micro-level (care giving, nurturing)?
- Policies that promote treatment strategies or preventive ones?
- Policy at the federal, state and/or local level?
Eshleman, R. (1991). The family: An introduction. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Jacob, F. & Davies, M. (1994). More than kissing babies? Current child and family policy in the United States. Westport, CT: Auburn House
Minnesota Coalition for Family Policy (1999). What is family policy. St. Paul, MN: Author.
Zimmerman, S. (1988). Understanding family policy: Theoretical approaches. Newberry Park, CA: Sage.
Zimmerman, S. (1992). Family policies and family well-being: The role of political culture. Newberry Park, CA: Sage.