Reiss's theory of family types: Is there paradigm-construct consistency in "normal" families?

Raymond Michael Biersbach, Fordham University


Reiss is one of a group of investigators who have developed a research based model of family problem-solving. This study investigated the validity of Reiss's hypothesized links between a family's ordinary problem-solving and underlying assumptions as manifested in family rituals. For the purposes of this study family rituals included such family behaviors as family dinnertime meals and the celebration of family holidays. Family problem-solving was assessed replicating a card sort technique developed by Reiss. In the original work four family types had emerged: environment-sensitive or "normal" families; achievement-sensitive or competitive families; consensus-sensitive, that is, rigid families; and distance-sensitive families which tended to produce delinquent members. The sample in the original study was drawn from families with normal, delinquent, or schizophrenic children. Reiss had hypothesized, however, that the family types could be found in the general population so this study drew its sample from a representative middle class community in northwest New Jersey. The sample for the study consisted of intact, nonclinical families with two parents born in English-speaking countries, with no divorces, separations, or moves out of the neighborhood in five years, with a child 15 to 20 years old living at home. Parents and child first completed a card sort and, later, a structured interview with the parents yielded biographical and family ritual data. Positive correlations between family problem-solving effectiveness and the quality of family rituals as reported by the parents had been predicted. Further, it was predicted that the family types would emerge from the sample. The family types did not emerge. Significant correlations were found, however, between the family's ability to work together (coordination) and structured and ongoing celebration of family rituals: None of the hypotheses regarding the other predicted relationships between the family's ordinary problem-solving and its underlying assumptions were supported. It was discovered, however, that family members were willing to sacrifice correct answers to cooperate with the rest of the family. This latter tendency points to the strength of family coordination at the expense of effective problem-solving.

Subject Area

Psychology|Experiments|Social psychology

Recommended Citation

Biersbach, Raymond Michael, "Reiss's theory of family types: Is there paradigm-construct consistency in "normal" families?" (1989). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9007171.