Background: In this era of evidence-based practice, whether a program is judged effective is based entirely on the results of an experiment, with randomized controlled studies being the gold standard. Rarely considered in this assessment is that to a large extent the findings are dependent on the outcome measures being used. This suggests that outcome measurement is critical to documenting positive program effects. Furthermore, practitioners and researchers are often looking for practical and easy to administer measures. A review of measures used to evaluate family interventions finds few acceptable measures that are easy to use, practical, face valid, and designed as outcome measures. For example, the Family Assessment Device is a 60 item measure that is not particularly practical, and the Family Crisis Personal Evaluation Scale measures a family’s capacity to cope but also does not tap into factors influenced by interventions (e.g. items include, watching television, seeking advice from a minister). With these limitations in mind, we developed the Family Functioning Scale as a rapid assessment instrument that is practical, easy to use, and designed to measure intervention outcomes. The measure consists of 15 items rated on a scale from 1 never true to 7 always true. Sample items include: “I care deeply about my family”, “I feel stress from my family”, and “My family respects me.”
Methods: Data were collected using a cross sectional survey. One hundred and forty-eight participants between the ages of twenty-one and fifty-nine (M=32.6, SD=10.3) were recruited for the study. In terms of ethnicity, 52.1% identified as Caucasian, 4.9% as African American, 28.5% as Hispanic, Latino/a, or Spanish, .7% as Asian, 4.2% as American Indian or Alaska Native, .7% as Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, and 9% as other.
Results: The reliability of the Family Functioning Scale was examined using coefficient Alpha. This produces an internal consistency estimate of reliability that is based on all the inter-item correlations. When the value of Alpha equals or exceeds .90 it provides evidence that the scale is measuring only one construct. The Cronbach’s Alpha based on standardized items was .91. The means for each item ranged from 3.48 to 6.35 demonstrating good variability within the items. The instrument was readministered one month later, and test retest reliabilities ranged from .69 to .84 demonstrating acceptable test retest reliability of the measure. To conduct a preliminary assessment of the measures validity we examined the relationship between individuals who scored high on negative emotions and their family functioning scores. The results suggested their may be a small relationship (F=1.48, df 30, p.07) suggesting the measure is likely to discriminate functional families from dysfunctional families. These preliminary results are promising, and more research is needed to continue to examine the utility of this measure.
Implications: The Family Functioning Scale is an easy to administer, 15-item rapid assessment instrument that measures important aspects of how families get along with each other. Future research is needed on larger more ethnically diverse samples.