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FAMILY SYSTEMS THEORY

By Jason S. Wrench

What is a System?
Ludwig Von Bertalanffy (1968)
Set[s] of elements standing in
interrelation among themselves and
with the environment

Systems Theory Development


Miller 1978
Called for a living systems theory

Broderick & Smith (1979)


Published the first article applying systems
theory to family scholarship

Common
Components of
Family Systems
Theory

Non-Summativity
The whole is Greater than the sum of its
parts.

Genograms
55

57

Male

Female
m. 79

82

87

90

Genograms
55

57

Male

Female
s. 92

82

87

90

Genograms
55

57

Male

Female
d. 97

82

87

90

Genograms
55-99

57

Male

Female
d. 97

82

87

90

Circular Causality
Family members are interrelated
Not linear (A affects B)
A & B affect each other

GALVIN AND BROMMEL (1996)


Daughter
Behaves More
Acceptably

Parents
Pay More
Attention

Parents ignore
Daughter

Daughter
Shoplifts

Equifinality
Families may react similarly to the same
experience or achieve outcomes by very
different processes.

System types
Sub system
Supra system

Boundaries
Open
Closed

Family Homeostasis
Bradshaw (1988)
Family Homeostasis (1957)
Families try to cooperate within the family
in order to keep the family at homeostasis.

Morphogenisis
Ability to adapt and be flexible to stressors

Morphostasis
Tendency for a system to stay at equilibrium

Applying Family
Systems Theory to
Family Stressors

Family Crisis
Roberts (1991) 3 Types of Crises
1. Hazardous event
2. Threat to Life Goals
3. Inability to respond with
adequate coping mechanisms

STRESSOR

SYSTEM

NEED TO CHANGE

Pittmans (1987)
Four Types of Stressors
Bolt from the Blue
Developmental
Structural
Caretaker

3 Approaches to
Family System
Theory Research

Interactional View
How families interact through message
transactions

Structural View
Focuses on dyadic social organization and
role structure within the family system.
How do families regulate boundaries.

Constructivist View
How does the family construct its particular
social reality

Narratives and stores that families construct


from their own experience

LIMITATIONS

1. Family Systems Theory has not resulted in


a body of specific theoretical assertions or
hypothesis which can be tested. (Broderick
& Smith, 1979; Fitzpatrick and Noller,
1993).
2. Family Systems Theory may best be
viewed as a metaphor for thinking about the
family (Fitzpatrick and Noller, 1993).

Turner & West (1998)


Limitations
Too much focus on homeostasis at expense of change

Too much focus on patterns at the expense of

unpredictability
Too much focus on the system at at the expense of
the individuals

A positivistic intellectual tradition that puts the


researcher outside the system in search of the
truth.

CASE
STUDY

This Presentation was Created by Jason Wrench

OAD SPEAKERS, Inc.


Copyright 1999