(Taken from Scott Plunkett's FES 432 Course Pack)
Permeability – the degree of difficulty or ease that information and system members have in crossing the boundaries between systems.
Boundaries are measured on dimension of permeability
Closed: nothing goes in or out.
Great censorship or restriction. The result can be the members do not adequately grow physically, psychologically, socially due to withholding of necessary elements for the individual and family growth
Open: no impediment to energy or information. Any information from the world can get into the family. The result can be for members to lose their identity as they are not distinguished from the outside world.
Second Order Change – A higher level of change where the system itself is altered. The system makes a transformation. Second order change will be the family system’s adaptation to the individual’s changes, resulting in the transformation of status and meaning within the system and the evolution of new elements of structure.
Refers to how the same results can be obtained by different means and by starting from different beginning points. The cause may never be known. Different causes may produce similar results.
A state of balance between opposing forces. Systems are characterized by a steady state, or homeostasis, such that most changes within the system result in changes in parts which lead to changes in other parts
Homeostasis - keeping human systems the same .
When something in the family remains the same, then homeostasis is maintained. This could be a behavior, a rule, or a style of communication. Ex. If we used to wait until mother took the first bite at dinner, and now we wait until she takes the first bite at dinner, then homeostasis is maintained.
Homeostatic Maintainer - function or influence within system to keep it the same. This could be an action, word, letter, non-verbal message, etc. So from the example above, if a guest started to take the first bite and the father politely said, “Let’s wait until your friend’s mother starts her meal to begin eating ourselves”, then the father’s comment is the homeostatic maintainer.
§ Family Mapping
The diagramming of a family’s organizational structure, boundaries, and patterns of interaction. Family mapping is useful in hypothesizing family functioning and forming goals for structural change (see Genogram handout).
Circular loop that brings the system’s output back to the system as input This can be verbal or non verbal. A mother’s glance to her 3 year old son may say more approval than the words “You are doing great”.
Two Types of Feedback:
Positive Feedback – Deviation amplifying (changes the system) The net effect increases the probability of the family member increasing a given behavior, which alters the system. In other words, positive feedback refers to forces which try to alter the family system’s rules, interaction patterns, and/or power structures.
This change can be for the better or for the worse of the members. Regardless of the direction of health, any change is considered ‘positive’. Ex. A child saying “I don’t like that” changes how the game is played.
Negative Feedback – Deviation dampening (keeps system the same) Information which maintains the current system and members’ behaviors. In other words, it is the forces which try to maintain the system’s current rules, interaction patterns, and/or power structures in the family.
Regardless of the current state of function or dysfunction, negative feedback will keep the system the same. Ex. A family member may crack a joke to keep the topic from becoming serious.
§ Parental child
The role played by an overly responsible child who has power and authority that more appropriately belongs to the parents. This typically reflects an inappropriate generational boundary within the family.
Arbitrary starting and ending points. The structuring and organization by an observer of a continuous sequence of events and behaviors.
He withdraws because she nags VERSUS she nags because he withdraws demonstrates the punctuation dilemma.
The practice of labeling a behavioral pattern and then using the label as an explanation of the pattern. According to systems theory, we need to avoid reification.
Example – mid-life crisis, passive-aggressive, codependency
Represents the relationship between two elements of the system.
These rules can be spoken, or not, written, or not. However, the rules determine how different elements (i.e. parent-child) will grow and develop.
Part of the system with distinct exchanges, rules, boundaries, etc. Subsystems could include any combination of people within the family. A mother and her two children would include subsystems of mother-daughter, mother-son, mother-daughter-son, daughter-son.
environment and is distinguished from its
A process in which a conflict-ridden, dyadic relationship is expanded to include a third person (e.g., child, therapist) so as to cover up or defuse the conflict. For example, a parent demands that a child sides with him/her against the other parent. Siding with one is defined as attacking by the other, which places the child in an intense conflict of loyalty.
§ Triangulation can be used as a therapeutic technique – in this case the therapist might relieve the child by entering the triangle and then act as a “go-between” in order to challenge and change the structure of the system.
§ Types of triangulation:
A process whereby a couple attempts to avoid conflict by recruiting a third person, usually a child, to create a problem so that the couple can avoid focusing on their own difficulties. In other words, stresses between spouses get redirected through a child so that the spouse subsystem gives the impression of harmony.
o Detouring-supporting triads
Supportive triads involve the parents uniting to protect a child who is sick or weak in this way the parents are able to conceal their conflicts in their common concern for the child.
A family subsystem that includes two or more family members and excludes at least one other member. The alliance between the family members against the other family member is usually covert. Coalitions can either promote family effectiveness (general coalitions) or they can be dysfunctional.
Parents attempt to resolve the conflict between themselves by seeking and/or exaggerating problems in another family member. The person recruited to be the scapegoat is usually the child.