1 minute read

Family Systems Theory - Basic Concepts/propositions, Challenges And Future Directions

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaFamily Theory & Types of Families


Family systems theory's heritage emerged from the work of Ludwig Von Bertalanffy's work on general systems theory which offered the world of the mid-twentieth century a different way of viewing science. Instead of the mechanistic models of the time, von Bertalanffy's general systems theory argued that organisms are complex, organized, and interactive. Such an approach shifted from a linear causal model to models that required a broader, holistic orientation in order to understand fully the dynamics involved. Von Bertalanffy's work on general systems theory found wide applicability in such fields as community planning, computer science and programming, and the social sciences. By the close of the twentieth century family systems theory had become one of the major theoretical foundations guiding empirical investigations into the study of families and from which clinical interventions and programmatic work with families were being developed.

A general systems perspective examines the way components of a system interact with one another to form a whole. Rather than just focusing on each of the separate parts, a systems perspective focuses on the connectedness and the interrelation and interdependence of all the parts. A systems perspective permits one to see how a change in one component of the system affects the other components of the system, which in turns affects the initial component. The application of the systems perspective has particular relevance to the study of the family as families are comprised of individual members who share a history, have some degree of emotional bonding, and develop strategies for meeting the needs of individual members and the family as a group (Anderson and Sabatelli 1999). Family systems theory allows one to understand the organizational complexity of families, as well as the interactive patterns that guide family interactions.


Additional topics