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August 22, 1986

Black and White Families: A Study in Complementarity

JAMA. 1986;256(8):1056. doi:10.1001/jama.1986.03380080102044

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In this book, the author uses a structured family case-study format to research the different modes of adaptation made by black and white middle-class, working-class, and poor families. He demonstrates that families of different social class and racial status are similar, and families of similar social class and racial status are different. This empirical evidence for the principle of social complementarity demonstrates that "the adaptations by race and social class... are situationally, not biologically determined."

Owing to their situation, dominant and subdominant populations within similar social classes have some different modes of adaptation to a common society. Both black and white middleclass families serve and participate in organized society, but are different in that white families emphasize individual freedom while black families emphasize group conformity. Workingclass black and white families are similar in knowing how to sacrifice on behalf of others, ie, working hard to feed, clothe, and house their