Stinnett and Beam Study Healthy Families

Fantastic Families

Nick and Nancy Stinnett and Joe and Alice Beam. 1999.  Fantastic Families:  6 Proven Steps to Building a Strong Family.  New York:  Howard Books.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

One frustration in ministry and counseling is the constant focus on brokenness.  Every conversation seems to feature a page from the DSM-IV, a book that lists psychiatric illnessesin other words, all the ways people can be broken[1]. After a point, I became curious what healthy families look like.  Eventually, my curiosity led me to a book by Nick and Nancy Stinnett and Joe and Alice Beam called:  Fantastic Families.


Stinnett and Beam define a family as: “two or more people who are committed to each other and who share intimacy, resources, decisions, and values” (9).  Obviously, the authors see the traditional family as important in this analysis, but the qualities they focus on are quite general and their comments about faith are minimal.  Strong families have problems just like everyone else, but they are better able to deal with them (8). This book promotes strong families by describing what they look like. Stinnett and Beam write:

“Experience has shown that if your family has problems—even major problems—the situation can be remedied and you can have a fantastic family life.  You can do it by applying in your family the six steps found in this book” (11).

Role of Learning in Health

Clearly, part of a healthy family life is the willingness to learn new things.  If your family spends a lot of time in crisis management mode, learning new things may be a hard requirement to meet.

Family Dynamics Institute

Stinnett and Beam are researchers with the Family Dynamics Institute of Franklin, Tennessee[1]Fantastic Families is a study based on a sample of 14,000 families from across all 50 states and 24 countries covering, at the time of writing, about 25 years of research (x-xii).  The book is written in 7 chapters introduced with a preface and introduction and followed by 4 appendices, notes, and bibliography.  The chapters focus on 6 qualities that strong families share in common:

  1. Commitment—these families promote each other’s welfare and happiness and value unity.
  2. Appreciation and Affection—strong families care about each other.
  3. Positive Communication—strong families communicate well and spend a lot of time doing it together.
  4. Time Together—Strong families spend a lot of quality time together.
  5. Spiritual Well-being—whether or not they attend religious services, strong families have a sense of a “greater good or power” in life.
  6. Ability to Cope with Stress and Crisis—strong families see crises as a growth opportunity (10).


Each chapter then consists primarily of a list of characteristics contributing to each of these qualities.  For example, a committed family has 6 characteristics:

  1. Commitment to marriage;
  2. Commitment to each other;
  3. Commitment to putting first things first;
  4. Commitment to honesty;
  5. Commitment to family traditions; and
  6. Commitment to the long haul (17-41).

Learning to Cope

The chapter on coping with stress was of particular interest to.  Stinnett and Beam offer 6 ideas for coping:

  1. Assess the stress in our life;
  2. Commit yourself to an exercise program;
  3. Cultivate your sense of humor;
  4. Select a hobby that refreshes and pleases you;
  5. Periodically review plans concerning death; and
  6. Use television and movies as a catalyst for family discussions (176-179).

Probably the most interesting item on this list was a table they provide that rates sources of stress by their required “social readjustment” from 1 to 100 (177-178). At the top of the list, for example, is the death of a spouse (100); …death of close family member (63); …child leaving home (29); …Vacation or Christmas (12).


Stinnett and Beam’s Fantastic Families is a helpful book for families willing to learn new things. It would be an interesting book to use in promoting small group discussion.



[1] American Psychiatric Association. 1994.  Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.  Fourth Edition.  Washington, DC.

Stinnett and Beam Study Healthy Families

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