How Families Can Manage Their Stress
There is a theory called family stress adaption that explains how a family can adapt to different stressors in their lives. Stress comes from numerous sources. There is internal stress, that is caused by individual behaviors in the family. For example, alcohol or drug abuse, physical or mental illness, or accidents, among many others. If a family member is charged with a DUI as a result of alcohol or drug abuse then they might need to hire a DUI lawyer in Houston Texas. Stress is a factor that plays a huge role in drug-related car accidents because of the injuries, losses, and DUI charges. External stressors can arise out of various economic problems like losing one’s job, violence, including terrorism and crime, or natural disasters like tornadoes, hurricanes, and floods.
Although most people attempt to avoid stress as much as possible, no family is ever completely immune to it. There is a theory that psychologists use to try to examine and quantify stress to recommend coping mechanisms that a family can use to remain healthy and intact throughout stressful events that they experience.
Family Stress Adaptation Theory
This term actually refers to theories from a number of different psychologists. Hill’s ABCX Model, which is the main family stress model, identifies the major contributing factors for family stress, agents that cause crises within a family, and buffers against stress. The best-known example is Hill’s, despite the fact that many psychologists following Hills proposed new theories for family stress adaptation or added to Hill’s theory.
The ABCX Model by Reuben Hill
Hill studies families that were survivors of the Great Depression. He then compared those families with ones that didn’t remain intact following the Depression. Hill then developed the ABCX model for family adaptation and stress. He theorized that family equilibrium was disrupted by major stressful events. Like all organisms, families use a coping mechanism in an attempt to re-establish equilibrium in order to handle their stress. Some of the major stressors that Hill, as well as other researchers, cited include sudden onset events, accidents, substance abuse as well as relapse, illness, physical abuse of spouses or children, divorce, and sudden economic hardship.
The A, B, And C Factors
The “A” in Hill’s model refers to an event that causes the equilibrium to be disrupted. Hill referred to protect factors working within a family that help to buffer against negative consequences caused by sudden stress. He called these protective factors “B” and “C.” His “B” factors included external and internal family resources as well as social support from community, church, and other forms of resources. Families that have strong social ties are able to cope better with sudden onset stress compared to families that are lacking in social ties.
The “C” factor in the Hill family stress model refers to perception. It refers to the perceptions and beliefs that are shared by the family about the stressor. It was suggested by Hill that is the stressful events were perceived by families in a constructive or positive way, that they were able to cope with this event better. Families that perceived the negative impact that a stressful event had and dwelled on it had a harder time being able to cope with it.
A family crisis was referred to as the “X” factor in Hill’s theoretical model. If a family fails to adapt to a stressful event and cope with it, it can end up in a crisis.
Hill’s original model has been added to by other theorists. However, Hill’s model has been able to withstand the test of time and is still the basis for all family stress theories. His suggestions and findings are still relevant to this day.
When it comes to stress, families adapt using either negative coping mechanisms or positive coping mechanisms.
The following are some positive coping mechanism examples:
- Cope with injury or illness through directly addressing how it impacts the family. That might mean having wheelchair ramps added to a home, to deal directly with a family member’s physical condition, or going to the hospital with a family member so that their substance abuse can be treated.
- Talking together as a family about a problem, or with a clergy person, therapist, or counselor.
- Seeking help for domestic problems or substance abuse problems.
- Turning to church members, community members, neighbors, or family for encouragement and support.
Families may adapt to stressful events in negative ways as well. Stress doesn’t usually come on families suddenly, but more gradually instead. It isn’t one major event that usually does it, but instead, it is an accumulation of many smaller events that result in a crisis being created. Since those small events usually don’t appear to be important, sometimes families will cope with these in negative ways. That is referred to as maladaptation.
The following are some examples of maladaptation:
- Denying there is a problem
- Using addictive substances such as alcohol or drugs to numb stressful feelings or pain
- Avoid discussing a stressful event
- Isolating from friends or family, maybe out of embarrassment or exhaustion from trying to cope with a problem
- Hiding a problem (such as domestic violence or an addiction)
- Escaping through an excessive amount of normally harmless entertainment such as too many movies or television
- Projecting feelings of frustration or anger onto other members of the family, like a mother yelling at a child when she is actually angry about losing her job or another factor that is beyond her control
Good Coping Behaviors
Within your family, good coping behaviors can be nurtured, through the use of various techniques. Children are especially vulnerable to stress. Therefore, you may want to have relaxation techniques that children can use. For caregivers, like clergy, daycare workers, teachers, doctors, nurses, and others, being able to identify family stress and providing families with support by giving them positive coping mechanisms to use can give them the support that they need so that a crisis can be avoided.