Health care professionals have focused for the most part on individuals within families as they provide care in acute care settings. The lack of a theoretical perspective to permit observing the family as a unit with interacting parts has contributed to this practice. This article presents an overview of trends and of four theoretical frameworks that have contributed to family practice and research, both for other disciplines and for nursing. Symbolic interactionism, systems, developmental, and social exchange theories are promising frameworks for considering family relationships now and into the future. The purpose, major concepts, and implications for nursing practice of each theory are presented

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