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Rules-II. Marriage and Family Interaction HPERF258 Dr. Gilbert & Wei-min Wang. Explicit (also called Overt or Known). Visible, stated clearly 10% of all family rules Have been discovered and/or talked about More formalized

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Marriage and Family Interaction


Dr. Gilbert & Wei-min Wang

Explicit (also called Overt or Known)

  • Visible, stated clearly

  • 10% of all family rules

  • Have been discovered and/or talked about

  • More formalized

  • The forms of rules we tend to list when first asked to identify rules

  • Usually stand unless specifically changed

Implicit (also called Covert or Unknown)

  • Tied to more abstract thinking

  • 90% of all family rules

  • Hidden from view

    • Being hidden makes them powerful

  • Accepted as “how things are” – basic structure of the family belief system

  • Also makes them more open to misinterpretation because it is often assumed that family members understand and go by rules

Examples of Rules

  • Hurting each other

  • Children using alcohol and other drugs

  • Adults using alcohol and other drugs

  • Telling lies

  • Sex

  • Dating

  • Breaking promises

  • Smoking cigarettes

  • Privacy

  • Respect

  • Beliefs and opinions

Rules & Expectations

  • What are some important stated rules in your family?

  • What are some important but unstated rules in your family?

  • What are some key expectations your family has on you?

  • If you don’t follow these rules or meet the expectations, what might happen?

Other Examples of Rules

  • Emotion expression

  • Anger

  • Affection

  • Family Secret

Rule sequencing

  • A connected series of rules

  • Example:

  • Dad has a bad day at the office

  • Dad comes home and criticizes Mom

  • Mom takes the anger out on a child

  • The child kicks the dog


  • Vicious cycles

  • Starting point of cycle may not be apparent

  • Feedback loops make the cycles hard to change and seem to “have a life of their own”

  • Although there may be variations, the cycles will be repeated over and over


Punctuating rule sequences

  • In order to change behavior in the family, you have to “punctuate the problem” and artificially stop the behavior sequence

Orders of Change

  • First order change – changing behavior

    • Largely focuses on explicit rules

  • Second order change – changing the beliefs, values, etc. that underlie the behaviors

  • First order change is largely ineffective

Managing Rules

  • Look for underlying, deeper rules (changing superficial rules will result only in first order change)

  • Think in terms of changing the underlying beliefs, values, etc.

  • Look at rule sequences instead of individual rules

Small group discussion

  • Reading #45 addresses “Managing a Blended Family.” In your small group, discuss how blending family rules complicates this process. How might this be made less difficult?

Final Thoughts on Lecture Material

  • In your small group, develop a list of at least five points about the role of rules in families.

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