As the definition of what is considered a family changes in our society, the family unit itself continues to undergo changes. These changes can sometimes lead to decreased stability within the family unit. One of the greatest challenges facing those researching this phenomenon is the lack of consistency within the existing body of research surrounding what familial instability actually is (the definition). This critical review of the literature examines the current body of literature in order to identify what is known about family stability and its impact on adolescent behavior, as well as what gaps currently exist. This review focuses on definitions of family stability, current factors surrounding the stability of the family unit, and addresses the implications that the current body of literature presents.

Key Take Away Points

  • There are significant gaps in the literature, specifically around the empirical research done when studying this phenomenon. Specifically, most studies fail to address both relational and concrete variables of family stability.
  • While quite broad and diverse, the body of literature surrounding this phenomenon provides a large amount of ambiguity and a lack of a consistent definition of what a stable family is.
  • The current body of literature surrounding this phenomenon provides some important and impactful implications in the area of practice, research, and policy formation.

Author Biography

Stephen N. Baldridge received his master's degree and PhD in social work from the University of Texas at Arlington. His practice experience includes working in the public school system with children with behavioral difficulties, working with families of children with autism, and doing behavioral consultation with agencies working with children with severe behaviors. His research interests include family stability, behavioral disorders, evidence-based practice, Applied Behavior Analysis, and baccalaureate social work education. Stephen currently serves as the Director of Baccalaureate Social Work Education at Abilene Christian University.

Responses to this Article:

Marni E. Axelrad, How Family Stability Affects Children (November 2011)