ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2023, Vol. 31 ›› Issue (3): 428-442.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2023.00428

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Family resilience theory in the risk coping context: Evolution, value and challenge

AN Yeqing, QI Shisan(), ZENG Xiaoye, JIN Tonglin, CAO Chengxu   

  1. School of Psychology, Inner Mongolia Normal University, Key Research Base of Psychological Education in Inner Mongolia Colleges and Universities, Hohhot 010022, China
  • Received:2022-06-20 Online:2023-03-15 Published:2022-12-22
  • Contact: QI Shisan


In recent years, frequently occurred major risk events such as earthquakes, floods, and the COVID-19 pandemic have posted a significant threat to people's lives and health. Family resilience has become an important protective factor for individuals and families to cope with risks. Family resilience theory has also become one of the most widely applied theories in the field of risk coping.
Family resilience theory was proposed as a new stress coping model by McCubbin, a clinical psychologist studying the military families' response to the war crisis, based on family stress theory and family systems theory. After several major revisions, the family resilience theory has developed from a static characteristics model into a dynamic change theory and formed a theoretical system with extensive connotation and extension. However, the “Double ABCX model” and “FAAR model” within the theoretical system are most commonly used in empirical research, and many researchers equate these two models with the family resilience theory, which leads to overgeneralization in the application. In addition, this theory came from family therapy in Western culture, and risk coping researchers have often ignored the huge difference between the cultural traditions of Chinese and Western families. To a certain extent, overlooking cultural differences has affected the researcher to deeply understand the family resilience theory in China. Chinese researchers should hold a prudent attitude when applying the family resilience theory to explain the family risk coping in China, avoiding problem of “cutting the feet to fit the shoes”.
Family resilience theory was applied to topics such as trauma repair and stress coping in the early stage. Later, it was applied to topics such as resilience. It is worth noticing that the family resilience theory revealed a peaked influence in risk coping studies in China over recent years. The consistently enriched research topics and gradually increasing theoretical and empirical studies highlighted the practical value of family resilience theory. At present, The family resilience theory has become a practical guide for clinical interventions. It has also become an important explanatory mechanism for the “crisis-adaptation” relationship at four levels (i.e., state, society, family, and individual) since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The family resilience theory has been expanded many times, its explanatory power has been constantly improved, and it has also been widely used in risk coping. However, applying the family resilience theory to risk coping research still faces challenges from several sources, such as meta-theoretical research, methodology, cross-cultural research, and social change. Meta-theoretical research challenges the family resilience theory primarily from the accuracy of the definition of family resilience concepts and the integration of theoretical models; methodology challenges the accuracy of family resilience assessment mainly from three aspects: research objects, research methods, and assessment tools; the cross-cultural and social change research challenges the applicability of the family resilience theory in Chinese context, mainly based on the strong appeal of localization and the uniqueness of family intergenerational relations in the period of social transformation.
Future research should cope with these challenges by clarifying the concept of family resilience and integrating the different family resilience models, using mixed methods and developing assessment index systems, and promoting localization of the family resilience theory. It is also important to build a family resilience theoretical system with Chinese characteristics considering Chinese traditional "family culture", in order to improve the vitality and explanatory power of the family resilience theory and reflect the contribution of oriental philosophy to the contemporary world, and further enhance the international academic discourse power of Chinese psychology.

Key words: family resilience, risk coping, family pressure, family crisis, family adaptation

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