The book is divided into three parts.

Part 1, “Understanding Families,” provides the conceptual framework for understanding families. We have attempted to use the most inclusive definition of families in this section, and have provided examples of nontraditional as well as traditional families.

Part 2, “Engaging Families,” offers a framework for early childhood professionals to apply their understanding of family in their efforts to engage families in the care and education of the children in meaningful ways.  

Part 3, “Family Diversity,” consists of 13 chapters devoted to the diversity that families face today. Early childhood professionals are very likely, in the course of their careers, to work with children who have dealt with a death in the family or a divorce. Many children are from single-parent families, families who live in poverty, or families in which one of the members has special needs. Understanding these families’ challenges will help the early childhood professional offer support in a nonjudgmental and empathic manner.


Each chapter begins with a list of objectives that clearly state the expected learning outcomes for the reader. It is followed by a “story” taken from real-life experiences relevant to the chapter topic. Scattered throughout the chapter are Scenario boxes, which contain real-life perspectives on particular issues, and Perspectives boxes, which allows for another’s person’s point of view. The Examine Your Attitudes box provides questions for educators to reflect upon their own attitudes and perspectives. Each chapter ends with a Chapter Summary, a list of further Resources, and a set of Exercises.