Everything you need to know about Family Systems Theory

Family, an integral part of a person’s life, society, nation and world. We being an individual can’t expect our lives without our family. They are our mental and emotional support every now and then. We do everything for our family, whether it’s earning money or fulfilling their basic needs. Life becomes so easy with parents, siblings and grandparents. In family, we enjoy each other’s company. Especially during the holidays, we feel more joyous and safe with our family. From our behaviour to habits to physical appearance, we get everything from our family.

There are a lot of things that can increase isolation, shame, and unhappiness for an individual and family who are brimming with conflict. We also know that families aren’t what they were once. Families are dynamic, diverse, and not necessarily “Perfect.” Many families are caring and welcoming, while some do not connect well, have secrets, or experience sorrow and challenge. In order to understand the complex family systems, you need to read the Family System Theory by Murray Bowen, who a psychologist and a leading counsellor.

What is family systems theory?

The family as a unit is the subject of Family Structures Theory. The family as an interconnected system is the most important premise of family system theory, so changes and behaviour and the functions of one family member can directly impact and influence other family members and vice versa.

The theory of the family systems focuses primarily on behaviour exchanges that take place at a time when family members interact. The theory maintains that interaction patterns among family members are both problem-striking and unproblematic. Dr Murray Bowen’s theory of family systems indicates that people should be perceived not individually, but as a member of their families, since family is an emotional unit. Families are interconnected and interdependent systems, which are not understood separately from the system.

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Maintaining the same behavioural trend within a family will lead to a balance in the family structure. If a male becomes depressed and cannot work, for instance, the wife has to take the extra burden for taking the slack. The change in roles can keep the relationship stable and move the family towards a different equilibrium. But later, this new equilibrium might lead to dysfunction as the wife may not be able to maintain this role for a long period of time.

Concepts of Dr Murray Bowen’s Family Systems Theory

Emotional Triangles:

This is the least stable system of relationships. Triangles typically have one side in dispute and two sides in equilibrium which lead to clinical growth of issue. These partnerships get dysfunctional as one or both spouses become anxious. One typical situation of relational triangles is where two parties consent and the third is at odds with one another. It will lead the individual in confrontation with others, behavioural and emotional issues.

Differentiation of self:

It applies not to a member of the community but to the context of the person’s personality and capacity. The degree of distinction of an individual dictates how relaxed they are and how much support from others they require. Anyone with a poor differentiation usually requires more support from those in their family and social networks.

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Nuclear family emotional system:

The major reasons for the development of problems in a family include –

  • Marital conflict
  • Impairment of one or more children
  • Dysfunction in one spouse
  • Emotional distance

Family projection process:

The emotional problems are transmitted to the child from a parent. Parents convey their fears, anxieties and other emotional issues to their children through family projection method. The mechanism of family projection may lead children to inherit emotional issues from their parents.

Multigenerational transmission process:

Small differences are transmitted in the children from parents. Multigenerational communication relates to the way individuals try out and transfer certain characteristics to children as parents that are close to them in terms of distinction. For e.g. – Anyone with a large difference is more likely to opt for a spouse that is strongly differentiated from his peers. This couple will generate highly differentiated children.

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Emotional cutoff:

Severe emotional issues can be managed by a person by reducing or cutting off the emotional contact with his/her family. If there are problems in a relationship between two individuals or groups, one person can agree to avoid emotional communication with the other to try to alleviate stress. While this can provide a short-term relief, emotionally cutting off a person or group can cause more stress in the long-term because the underlying problems remain unresolved.

Sibling position:

Sibling position and associated personality traits may affect family relationships, especially with respect to married couples. Marital partnerships appear to be more compatible where both parties are similar relatives, for example when an older brother marries a younger sister. There is a greater likelihood of taking liability when two individuals in the same sibling status meet.

Societal emotional process:

The moral structure controls social conduct, encouraging positive as well as regressive moments in culture. Not only families, but non-family groups such as office workers are subject to the concepts of family systems theory Emotional processes influence behaviour even outside the family and result in progressive and regressive social periods. In addition to cultural forces, emotional processes impact on how society can adapt to change or overcome challenges.

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Family systems therapy

Family system therapy is a form of psychotherapy that helps individuals in the context of their family to solve their problems. One of the most significant concepts of family group counselling is that anyone in the family needs to understand what happens to a family member. One of the easiest approaches to get therapy to get an understanding of how the relational framework functions is to bring the family genogram together. Research your own conduct habits and how they contribute to your family’s actions shows fresh and effective approaches to overcome the issues.

Seek an expert therapist in behavioural wellbeing who has familiarity in parenting and broken families, such as control issues and relationship challenges. In addition to choosing someone with the right credentials and specific expertise, try a psychiatrist who would be willing to meet with you and your colleagues on mental and social problems.