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Family Systems Theory. Beginnings. In the 1950s Dr. Murry Bowen introduced a transformational theory, Family Systems Theory . . Family Systems Theory. Families are SYSTEMS of interconnected and interdependent individuals.

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Family Systems Theory

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Family systems theory l.jpg

Family Systems Theory

Beginnings l.jpg


In the 1950s Dr. Murry Bowen introduced a transformational theory, Family Systems Theory .

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Family Systems Theory

  • Families are SYSTEMS of interconnected and interdependent individuals.

  • To understand the individual, we must understand the family system of that individual. People cannot be understood in isolation from one another.

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What does it mean to say a family is a system?

A family is greater than the sum of its parts.

  • As members of a family system every member is interconnected.

  • Think about a mobile. When one piece moves, the whole mobile moves. Movement of one affect the whole system.

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Family Systems Theory

  • Within family systems theory the focus is on with how we relate to one another. We build a collection of interactions called a system. The system can be a family or a workgroup or a collection of friends. Our focus is on the system rather than just on individuals. With the system there are qualitatively different elements that help determine what we are and what we can become .

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Family Systems Theory

  • Each part of the system affects each others. An alcoholic family member often destabilizing family system. The alcoholic’s unpredictability, violence, contempt, and self focus distorts much of the family’s interaction.

    The whole family must adapt to these behaviors. They do things such as absorbing the anger, denying the effect of the alcoholics behavior, avoiding him, and even trying to cover up the disease.

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Family Systems Theory: GOOD NEWS!

Systems are self reflective. As humans we have the capability to examine our own behavior . This self reflectivity allows us to focus on our systems and set goals. We no longer need to accept that what we experience is “just the way things are.”

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Family Systems Theory: Basic Elements

  • The family is a structure of related parts or subsystems. Each action or change affects every other person in the family.

  • The family structure has elements that can only be seen in its interactions. Individual make up a family system. This family system is a complex whole that cannot be understood by examining members separately.

  • Family Roles: Patterns of interaction become ingrained habits that make change difficult.

  • Family Rules: Each family has certain rules that are self-regulating and peculiar to itself. The family is a purposeful system; it has a goal. Usually the goal is to remain intact as a family.

  • Boundaries: For families to function well, subsystems must maintain boundaries.

  • Adaptation: Despite resistance to change each family system constantly adapts to maintain itself in response to its members and environment.

  • Systems change through the family life cycle. Changes in family systems are caused by both nominative (predictable life cycle changes) and non-normative (crisis) stresses.

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