Inclusion and Diversity Committee Update

Social Justice in the Context of Family Science: Considerations for Teaching, Scholarship, and Research
/ Fall 2019 NCFR Report

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Tiffany L. Brown, Ph.D.; Anthony G. James, Jr., Ph.D., CFLE; Christi R. McGeorge, Ph.D.; and Elizabeth G. Holman, Ph.D.

Over the past several years, NCFR’s Inclusion and Diversity Committee (IDC) has sponsored special sessions on the use of a social justice framework in the context of Family Science. These special sessions have advanced conversations around identifying the dynamics of socially structured and institutionalized oppression and privilege, as well as reflections on our own social locations (e.g., the intersections of race, class, age, gender, sexual orientation, religion, ability) in our work as family professionals.

The 2018 session addressed how social locations—race, class, gender, and sexual orientation—and interactions within and between broader systems of privilege and oppression affect research and practice in the discipline of Family Science. More specifically, that session encouraged participants to identify their social locations while considering the social locations of those they work with, in an effort to identify how social identities shape spaces of teaching, research, and practice. Overall, participants developed new insights and skills to challenge institutionalized inequality across Family Science domains. More information about this session can be found at

With the continued support of the NCFR board, the IDC will host another special session to discuss issues related to social justice at the NCFR Annual Conference in Nov. 20–23 in Fort Worth, Texas. This upcoming session is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019 from 3 to 4:15 p.m., and it will be closely tied with this year’s conference theme of “Family Sustainability: Contextualizing Relationships Within Evolving Systems.”

In this special session, reflecting on how the use of a social justice framework in research, teaching, and practice can support well-being and resilience in families across generations helps move scholars and practitioners away from deficit models and toward more empowering ways of supporting, researching, and teaching about diverse families. In other words, considering how issues of oppression, differential privilege and power, and structural inequalities are connected to family strengths across time broadens ways of defining and engaging in social justice work.

Utilizing a social justice paradigm encourages an awareness of diversity, injustice, and inequalities, as well as self-reflection and “acting on systematic and hidden disparities with meaningful leadership in the discipline of Family Science” (IDC, 2017). Consequently, unpacking more concrete methods for conceptualizing and operationalizing social justice in Family Science theory, education, scholarship, and practice is a critical gap in the discipline.

The 2019 IDC Special Session will address the action portion of our call to social justice by highlighting the various ways scholars can enact these principles in their work around family sustainability within evolving social contexts. In addition to the special session, the Journal of Family Theory & Review (JFTR) will publish a social justice–themed special issue with a focus on race and racism in the fall of 2019. The special session will include a discussion with a panel of authors from that special issue and a Q&A segment. The overarching goal of the session is to demonstrate the diverse ways that social justice principles are incorporated in teaching, research, and practice while encouraging attendees to think deeply about integrating a social justice paradigm into the work they do with and around families. The session will be moderated by Christi R. McGeorge, Ph.D., and Anthony G. James, Jr., Ph.D., CFLE, with special remarks by JFTR’s editor, Mark Fine, Ph.D.

Understanding how to implement a social justice lens in the discipline can assist the evolution of theory to praxis through a critical examination of issues of power and privilege that position some individuals and families to thrive and have greater access to well-being while simultaneously constricting such access to other individuals and families. In the United States and around the world, race has been at the center of systems granting access to power, privilege, and resources (Golash-Boza, 2016). If the discipline of Family Science and NCFR is to hold true to its spoken goal of “strengthening families” by being “the premier professional association of understanding families through interdisciplinary research, theory, and practice,” then clearly articulating the historical and current state of how families thrive, and how to dismantle barriers to such thriving, is in order. We hope that this multiyear, multimodal approach to social justice helps NCFR, its members, and Family Science professionals live up to that goal. As we have done at past conferences, the IDC will also sponsor an Interactive Breakfast Meeting on Friday, Nov. 22, 2019, from 7:30 to 9 a.m., to continue discussing themes from the special session. Using a roundtable format, attendees will be invited to delve deeper into the ways they can enact social justice principles in their work as scholars and practitioners. We will also use this time to garner feedback from conference attendees on future directions and initiatives for the IDC. This is particularly important to the IDC’s mission of supporting the needs of NCFR’s diverse membership.

We look forward to seeing you in Fort Worth and engaging in these transformative conversations with you!


Golash-Boza, T. (2016). A critical and comprehensive sociological theory of race and racism. Sociology of Race and Ethnicity2(2), 129–141.

Inclusion and Diversity Committee. (2017). National Council on Family Relations Inclusion and Diversity Board Committee Policies and Procedures. Retrieved from