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In clinical practice, a broad conception of family is needed to encompass the wide range of family structures, relationship options, and cultural diversity in contemporary society (Coontz 1997). Clinicians need to be mindful of cultural, personal, and professional assumptions and biases when assessing families. Myths of the ideal family can compound a sense of deficiency and failure for struggling families that do not fit the intact nuclear family model. Decades of research clearly confirm that children can grow up healthy in a variety of family arrangements (Walsh 2003b). What matters most is the quality of relationships and the effectiveness of family processes.

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