By: Loise Taliaferro, Strengthening Families Program Supervisor, Anne Arundel County Department of Health

According to the American Psychological Association, a family can be defined as the “kinship unit consisting of a group of individuals united by blood or by marital, adoptive, or other intimate ties.” (1)

Families are the most fundamental unit of societies, but its form and structure have evolved and vary widely. However, as explained by Pratta and Santos (2007), the basic functions of the family structure, the psychological development of its members, have remained the same (2).

Family is where all the blocks to live in a society are built.

It’s where we learn how to love, care, to be compassionate, to be ethical, honest, fair, to have common sense, to use reasoning and so much more.

Families can be risk factors, which can increase the risk for child abuse and neglect, and the likelihood of children to have substance abuse disorders. Here are some examples of Family risk factors:

  • Lack of love, care & support
  • Weak, severe or inconsistent discipline
  • Lack of family customs & traditions
  • Low expectations for school success
  • Poor family management
  • Lack of communication
  • Sexual, physical or emotional abuse

But families can also act as a protective factor. A protective factor is a characteristic that makes a parent, child, or family more likely to thrive and less likely to experience a negative outcome.

You can also think of protective factors as what helps children and families thrive, despite whatever risk factors they might face.

Here are some examples of Family protective factors:

  • Parent/caregiver/child attachment
  • Parental monitoring and positive discipline
  • Consistent, predictable parenting
  • Parents’ communication of values and expectations about drugs & other risky behaviors

Is your family facing some structural challenges? Do you need help in learning skills to improve your family communication and family unit?

If you answered yes to those questions, I think we can help!

We are about to start our Strengthening Families Program, Fall 2021 cycles, in-person and virtual!

Strengthening Families is a 14 sessions, evidence-based program, proven to help families to learn life and social skills they need to thrive as individuals and as a family!

Designed for parents/caregivers and their children (6-17 years old).

For more information and registration, contact: Loise Taliaferro at or at 410-507-5147


American Psychological Association. Dictionary of Psychology.

Definition of Family. Retrived from on 8/3/2021..

Pratta, E. M. M and Santos, M. A. (2007). Family and adolescence: the influence of the family context on its members’ psychological development. Retrieved from on 8/3/2021.