Abstract Research about families in stressful circumstances has a perspective that emphasizes health, positive functioning, and quality of life. The resiliency model of family stress, adjustment, and adaptation explains why some families have better life outcomes than others. In this model, the concepts problem solving, sense of coherence, coping, and adaptation play a prominent part. The main purpose of this literature review is to explore how these concepts are defined and applied in research on the family level rather than solely on the mothers’ perceptions of family functioning. Another aim is to identify intervention methods based on problem solving, family sense of coherence (FSOC), positive coping, and positive adaptation in families. A review of research published between 1985 and 2004 concerning families of children in need of special support and family caregivers of relatives with chronic illness was implemented. Only 30 research articles met the inclusion criteria. The conclusion is that problem solving, FSOC, positive coping, and positive adaptation have their conceptual roots in different theories but have similar types of components in the constructs. They are often measured with instruments with single individuals as representatives for the family rather than at the family level. Important factors for an effective intervention seem to be individualization, supporting flexibility in coping strategies, and matching of strategies between partners within families.