Sociology, Department of


Date of this Version

February 1973


Published in Journal of Marriage and Family, Vol. 35, No. 1. (February 1973), pp. 39–49. Published by Blackwell Publishing for the National Council on Family Relations.


Andrew Billingsley in Black Families in White America has criticized much of the previous research on the black family, saying that social scientists have ignored the structural variation among families and have focused on a very limited number of family functions. To correct what he believes to be a distorted picture of the black family, he has suggested a typology of family structures and a large number of family functions which should be taken into consideration. This paper, based upon data collected from 321 black households, uses Billingsley’s typology to examine the association between family structures and functions. It is concluded that a few modifications of the typology would expand its utility, that more detailed information about family structure does reduce the chances of distortion and contribute to greater understanding, and that Billingsley may have overemphasized the capacity of many black families to deal with their functional problems.

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