Family Systems Perspective

(from “Genograms: Assessment and Intervention, 2nd Edition” )



-                     Family – those who are tied together through their common biological, legal, cultural, and emotional history and their implied future together.



-                     Views families as inextricably interconnected. Neither people nor their problems exist in a vacuum. Physical, social and emotional functioning of family members is profoundly interdependent, with changes in one part of the system reverberating in other parts.



-                     Family is the primary and, almost always, the most powerful system to which humans belong.



-                     Family consists of the entire kinship network of at least 3 generations, both as it currently exists and as it has evolved through time.



-                     Family interactions and relationships tend to be highly reciprocal, patterned, and repetitive.



-                     Family behaviors, including problems and symptoms, derive further emotional and normative meaning in relation to both the sociocultural and historical context of the family.



-                     Ethnicity, race, religion, migration, class, and other socioeconomic factors, as well as a family’s time and location in history, also influence a family’s structural patterns.





Family Systems Perspective Continued

(from “Genograms: Assessment and Intervention, 2nd Edition” )



-                     Families repeat themselves. What happens in one generation will often repeat itself in the next. The same issues tend to be played out from generation to generation. As a result, relationship patterns in previous generations may provide implicit models for family functioning in the next generation.



-                     The Vertical axis includes family history, patterns of relating and functioning that are transmitted down generations, primarily through the mechanism of triangling. At the sociocultural level, vertical axis includes cultural and societal history, stereotypes, patterns of power, social hierarchies, and beliefs.



-                     The Horizontal axis describes the family as it moves through time, coping with changes and transitions in the family’s life cycle. Horizontal axis relates to community connections or lack of them, current events, and social policy as they impact a family and the individual.



-                     Many relationship patterns in families – distant, conflictual, cutoff, close, fused, enmeshed, rigid, diffuse.



-                     Bowen (1978) – two-person relationships tend to be unstable. Under stress two people tend to draw in a third. The basic unit of an emotional system thus tends to be the triangle.



-                     Members of a family tend to fit together as a functional whole – behaviors tend to be complementary or reciprocal. This does NOT mean that members have equal power, it means that belonging to a system opens people to reciprocal influences and involves them in each other’s behavior in inextricable ways.