Structural family theory

Topics: Family therapy, Dysfunctional family, Family Pages: 2 (479 words) Published: August 13, 2014
Individuals, subsystems, and whole families are demarcated by interpersonal boundaries, invisible barriers that regulate contact with others. Subsystems that aren’t adequately protected by boundaries limit the development of interpersonal skills achievable in these subsystems (Nichols & Schwartz, 2004). Consequently, the family should be considered as a system whose function depends on the members of this structure. Minuchin’s Family structural theory was created with subsystems that changed all the time as they were adapting to external (job, school, and relocation) and internal (divorce, illness, and birth) influences. Thus, the dysfunctional family is one whose external and internal boundaries are excessively diffuse or rigid. A diffuse boundary deprives the couple subsystem of integrity, resulting in a lack of identity as a couple. A rigid boundary, on the other hand, cuts the couple off from its environment. Family dysfunction results from a combination of stress and failure to realign themselves to cope with it. Stressors may be environmental (a parent is laid off, the family moves) or developmental (a child reaches adolescence, parents retire). The family’s failure to handle adversity may be due to flaws in their structure or merely to their inability to adjust to changed circumstances. All families face situations that stress the system. Although, there is no clear dividing line between healthy and unhealthy families, healthy families modify their structure to accommodate to changed circumstances, whereas dysfunctional families increase the rigidity of structures that are no longer effective. Structural assessments take into account both the problem the family presents and the structural dynamics they display. And they include all family members (Nichols & Schwartz, 2004). Minuchin first discovered two patterns in dysfunctional families: disengaged and enmeshed. In disengaged families, boundaries are rigid and the family fails to mobilize support when...
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