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Family Theories

Foundations and Applications

Katherine R. Allen and Angela C. Henderson

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To Katherine's family of origin: Jack, Betty, Beth, John, Dan, and Doug
To Angie's family of origin: Bev, LaVerne, Brad, and Chris


This book has been a pleasure to write. Our shared passion for theory has developed into a seamless collaboration, where our strengths and interests enhance one another. We also share a passion for guiding students in the discovery process of linking theory, research, and application as family scholars and practitioners. Our goal is to reveal how understanding theory and being able to theorize are essential qualities for a life well lived. Surely, we have benefited from this journey in theory, and we sincerely hope that readers will as well.

Speaking of our readers, we acknowledge that we wrote this book by keeping in the forefront the thousands of students we have taught in our collective 30-plus years as educators. Our students have taught us many lessons about the value of theory in the scientific enterprise and the excitement in learning to understand and use it effectively. We have also kept in mind our peers who teach students about theory and theorizing. It is encouraging to know that there are many other educators who share our interest in theory and our commitment to sharing this knowledge with students.

We have many individuals to thank for their scholarly and editorial contributions to this book. First, Brandy Renee McCann, who initially was one of the authors of this book until family responsibilities required her attention, was instrumental in developing the proposal for the book and drafting one of the early chapters. We thank Brandy for generously sharing her expertise in the development of the project. Second, several undergraduate and graduate students at Virginia Tech provided insightful feedback about the initial chapters we wrote: Emma Potter, Katie Barrow, and Lauren Byrd. In the later stages of completing the book, Erin Lavender-Stott was our trusted reader. Erin read every chapter and all of the supplemental materials, diligently offering her excellent assistance. Third, we humbly thank our anonymous reviewers for their invaluable comments and critiques of the manuscript, each of which helped make this book better. We especially thank Fiona Tasker for her many helpful suggestions. Fourth, the Wiley editorial teams with whom we have worked have been a wonderful resource for the book. From the very beginning, when Julia Teweles invited us to write the book and shepherded the work through its first stages, we have felt we are in expert hands. We have also benefited from the thoughtful feedback and timely editorial advice we have received from Deirdre Ilkson, Julia Kirk, Haze Humbert, Mark Graney, and Sue Leigh. Ann Bone and Allison Kostka, in particular, have guided us through the final stages with such patience and skill. We are grateful to all of these individuals who have helped us along the way.

The process of learning to utilize theory began with our own family theory teachers. Robert Pickett and Colleen Johnson ignited Katherine's passion for family theory in graduate school at Syracuse University. Charlotte Dunham and Jill Suitor both fueled Angie's interests in family theories during her graduate coursework and writing her dissertation.

Finally, we thank our families, Jeff Burr and Matt Special, and Jimmy, Owen, Cameron and Cora Henderson, who enrich our lives and provide the private testing ground for theorizing about intimate life. We thank them beyond measure for walking with us on this journey every step of the way.

About the Website

The Family Theories: Foundations and Applications companion website features instructor resources created by the authors to help you use this book in college and university courses.