Chapter 17 Family Assessment Device

17.1 Background

The Family Assessment Device (FAD) Survey asked the participant about their family during the past two months. Their scores show how well their family communicated and lived together as a unit. A low score indicates better family functioning - higher is worse family functioning indicating higher stress levels in the family.

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The FAD is based on the McMaster Model of Family Functioning. The original scale has 60 items and measures 6 scales that assess the 6 dimensions of the MMFF - affective involvement, affective responsiveness, behavioral control, communication, problem solving, and roles - as well as a 7th scale measuring general family functioning. However, the version used here consisted of 27-items focusing on 3 scales:

  • Problem Solving
  • Communication
  • General Family Functioning

Each item is scored 1-4. Some items are reversed prior to summary. Final scores for each scale are the average across the items in their scale such that the final scores also range from 1-4.

Clinical Cutoffs are:

  • General family functioning: scores > 2.00 are considered to indicate poor family functioning
  • Communication and Problem Solving: scores > 2.20 are considered to indicate poor communication or problem solving skills respectively.

Additional information can be found at: (Akister and Stevenson-Hinde 1991) and (Bihum et al. 2002) and (Epstein, Baldwin, and Bishop 1983) and (Miller et al. 1985).

17.2 Items included

The following 27 items were included for the FAD version used in this study:

  1. Planning family activities is difficult because we misunderstand each other.
  2. We resolve most everyday problems around the house.
  3. When someone is upset the others know why.
  4. In times of crisis we can turn to each other for support.
  5. We cannot talk to each other about the sadness we feel.
  6. We usually act on our decisions regarding problems.
  7. You can’t tell how a person is feeling from what they are saying.
  8. Individuals are accepted for what they are.
  9. People come right out and say things instead of hinting of them.
  10. We avoid discussing our fears and concerns.
  11. It is difficult to talk to each other about tender feelings.
  12. After our family tries to solve a problem, we usually discuss whether it worked or not.
  13. We can express feelings to each other.
  14. We talk to people directly rather than through go-betweens.
  15. There are lots of bad feelings in the family.
  16. We often don’t say what we mean.
  17. We feel accepted for what we are.
  18. We resolve most emotional upsets that come up.
  19. Making decisions is a problem for our family.
  20. We are frank with each other.
  21. We are able to make decisions about how to solve problems.
  22. We confront problems involving feelings.
  23. We don’t get along well together.
  24. We don’t talk to each other when we are angry.
  25. We confide in each other.
  26. When we don’t like what someone has done, we tell them.
  27. We try to think of different ways to solve problems.


Akister, Jane, and Joan Stevenson-Hinde. 1991. “Identifying Families at Risk: Exploring the Potential of the McMaster Family Assessment Device.” Journal of Family Therapy 13 (4). Wiley:411–21.

Bihum, Joan T., Marianne Z. Wamboldt, Lesile A. Gavin, and Frederick S. Wamboldt. 2002. “Can the Family Assessment Device (FAD) Be Used with School Aged Children?” Family Process 41 (4). Wiley:723–31.

Epstein, Nathan B., Lawrence M. Baldwin, and Duane S. Bishop. 1983. “The McMaster Family Assessment Device.” Journal of Marital and Family Therapy 9 (2):171–80.

Miller, Ivan W., Nathan B. Epstein, Duane S. Bishop, and Gabor I. Keitner. 1985. “The McMaster Family Assessment Device: Reliability and Validity.” Journal of Marital and Family Therapy 11 (4):345–56.