Dr. John DeFrain

Dr. John DeFrain

MISS Foundation Advisory Board

Dr. John DeFrain is a professor of family science in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, College of Human Resources and Family Sciences, University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He has been on the faculty for more than 20 years. Before coming to UNL, he was a newspaper reporter in Lincoln for five years while working his way through college; and on the Seattle faculty of The Little School/Pacific Oaks College, a postgraduate teacher training program based in Seattle, and Pasadena, and offering early childhood education certification in both states of Washington and California. In 1975, he received his doctorate in family studies from the University of Wisconsin- Madison, focusing on parent education, family therapy, and child development.

From 1976 to 1984 he co-directed a joint graduate training program in family therapy at UNL, and has done extensive consulting for courts and families on marriage, divorce, and custody issues. He was a co-founder of the National Symposium on Building Family Strengths which, for ten years, focused attention on nationwide efforts to enhance family relationships.

Dr. DeFrain has co-authored and co-edited 15 books, including: Coping with Sudden Infant Death (with Jacque Taylor and Linda Ernst, published in 1982) Secrets of Strong Families (with Nick Stinnett, published in 1985) Stillborn: The Invisible Death (with Leona Martens, Jan Stork, and Warren Stork, published in 1986) On Our Own: A Single Parent’s Survival Guide (with Judy Fricke and Julie Elmen, published in 1987 Parents in Contemporary America (with E. E. LeMasters, published in 1989); Sudden Infant Death: Enduring the Loss (with Linda Ernst, Deanne Jakub, and Jacque Taylor, published in 1991) Marriage and The Family: Diversity and Strengths (with David H. Olson, published in 1994 and 1997). He is currently working on four new books: We Cry Out: Living with Developmental Disabilities; The Dark Thread: Surviving and Transcending a Traumatic Childhood; Catastrophe: The Psychological and Social Trauma of a Serious Motor Vehicle Accident; and Creating a Strong Family.

His research on healthy families, and families in crisis has also been published in more than forty professional articles and reported in many newspapers and magazines, including Parents Magazine, Redbook, Ladies Home Journal, Psychology Today, Good Housekeeping, McCall’s Working Mother, Reader’s Digest, USA Today, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. He has appeared on NBC’s Today show with Jane Pauley in New York, and has testified on the development of family strengths before a Congressional committee on Capitol Hill in Washington.

DeFrain and his family lived in the South Pacific in 1992. Funded by a Fulbright Scholarship from the federal government and a University of Nebraska Faculty Development Scholarship, they learned about “The Strengths and Challenges of South Pacific Families”. The family lived for five months in Suva, Fiji, where the research was based at the University of the South Pacific. They also visited with families in the Cook Islands, French Polynesia, Australia, and New Zealand. In the spring of 1996, they led a group of university students during a “Nebraska Semester Abroad” program, visiting the Czech Republic, Poland, Austria, Greece, Slovakia, Hungary, and Germany. Their home base during that period was at Palacky University in Olomouc, Czech Republic, and Aristotle University in Thessaloniki, Greece. The DeFrains will begin a study of Australian family strengths in 1999, in conjunction with the Family Action Centre of the University of Newcastle.

John enjoys his family, reading, swimming, cross-cultural experiences and outdoor adventures. He and his spouse, Nikki, have three daughters, Amie, Alyssa, and Erica.

He met Joanne Cacciatore in 2001 and has since rededicated himself to research and support of families experiencing stillbirth and infant death.

Selected Publications/Presentations

Xie, X., & DeFrain, J. (1998). Rural Chinese families in transition in the ’90s. Asia Pacific Journal of Social Work.

Olson, D. H., & DeFrain, J. (1997). Marriage and Family: Diversity and Strengths, 2nd ed. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield.

DeFrain, J., Ernst, L., & Nealer, J. (1997). The family counselor and loss. In J. R. Woods, Jr. (Ed.), Loss in pregnancy or the neonatal period: Principles of care with clinical cases and analyses. Pitman, NJ: Anthony J. Jannetti Publishing.