Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Psychology



First Advisor

Larry Grebstein


There have been a limited number of studies investigating cross-cultural similarities and differences in family functioning. Previous research that has been conducted on the family functioning of families with a depressed member has indicated unhealthy family functioning as compared to families without a depressed member (Keitner, Miller, Epstein, Bishop, & Fruzzetti, 1987; Miller, Kabacoff, Keitner, Epstein, & Bishop, 1986; Sawyer, Sarris, Baghurst, Cross, & Kalucy, 1988). The purpose of this study was to: (1) investigate whether Portuguese families with a depressed member had unhealthy family functioning as measured by the Family Assessment Device (FAD) (Epstein, Baldwin, & Bishop, 1983); and (2) examine whether Portuguese families were comparable in this regard to families from two other cultural groups. Specifically, this study compared Portuguese family functioning with previous findings of American's and Hungarian's family functioning.

The FAD, which is based upon the McMaster Model of Family Functioning (MMFF) (Epstein, Bishop, & Levin, 1978), was used to assess the family functioning of individuals from the Portuguese, American, and Hungarian cultural groups on six specific dimensions and one general scale. The dimensions are Problem Solving, Roles, Behavior Control, Communication, Affective Responsiveness, and Affective Involvement. The General Functioning scale provides an overall assessment of functioning. The individuals in this study met the criteria for Major Depression as outlined in the DSM-111-R (American Psychiatric Association, 1987). These individuals were either seeking outpatient treatment or were inpatients at a local psychiatric hospital.

Three predictions were made. First, the FAD would assess Portuguese families as functioning well on (a) Problem Solving; (b) Roles; and (c) Behavior Control. The second prediction was that the FAD would assess Portuguese families as having unhealthy family functioning on the dimensions of (a) Communication; (b) Affective Responsiveness; and ( c) Affective Involvement. The results partially supported the former prediction and completely supported the latter. Overall, Portuguese families were found to have healthy functioning on the Problem Solving dimension and unhealthy family functioning on the Roles, Behavior Control, Communication, Affective Responsiveness, and Affective Involvement dimensions.

The final prediction involved the comparison of the three cultural groups. Since the families in this study were dealing with a major illness, it was hypothesized that all three groups would have overall unhealthy family functioning as measured by the General Functioning scale. It was predicted that the Hungarian sample would have the healthiest family functioning followed by the American sample. The Portuguese sample would have the worst family functioning of the three groups.

A number of analyses addressing methodological issues were conducted prior to testing the third prediction. It was found that depression severity was a confounding variable. As a result, the Hungarian sample was not included in the final analysis due to the lack of a depression severity rating. The Portuguese and American samples were not significantly different in their family functioning as measured by the FAD's General Functioning scale. Both groups had overall unhealthy family functioning on the General Functioning scale partially supporting the third prediction.



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