Ground-breaking article defines family life education

East Carolina University professor Sharon M. Ballard collaborated with colleagues on an article that defines family life education and differentiates the field from other family-related areas of study.

Sharon Ballard

The article, “Reconceptualizing the Domain and Boundaries of Family Life Education,” was published by the National Council on Family Relations, in its October issue of Family Relations: Interdisciplinary Journal of Applied Family Studies.

Ballard worked with colleagues Judith A. Myers-Walls, Purdue University; Carol Anderson Darling, Florida State University; and Karen S. Myers-Bowman, Kansas State University to lay out a new model illustrating how family life education is unique from the related fields of family therapy and social work case management. The new model defines family life education as unique yet collaborative among the ways in which professionals serve families.

“There has been ongoing confusion regarding the definition of family life education and its relationship to other family-related fields,” said Ballard, associate professor of child development and family relations.

“The Domains of Family Practice Model presented in this paper provides a framework for clarifying the boundaries of the three family professions,” she said.

“Each professional role is needed for the overarching goal of strong, healthy families, but each role is unique in its parameters. This model not only clarifies these parameters for family professionals, but can facilitate referral and collaboration among family professionals,” Ballard said.

Glen Palm, professor of child and family studies at St. Cloud State University and former board member  of The National Council on Family Relations said that the article was significant in defining the field.

 “It is a breakthrough in clarifying the FLE role and establishing distinct boundaries with both family therapy and family casework. This work opens doors for needed collaboration among family practitioners. The shift from a hierarchical model to a collaborative model distinguishes the unique role and skill set of family life educators in relationship to other family service providers,” Palm said.

The National Council on Family Relations ( is a professional organization with a national membership of over 3,500 family researchers, practitioners and educators. The organization instituted professional standards for delivering family life education in 1985, establishing the certified family life educator credential. There are now more than 1,500 CFLEs internationally, with 125 colleges and universities offering CFLE-approved coursework. ECU offers the certification through its family and community service program. For additional information, contact Ballard at


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