Social Systems This Work Will Thesis

It is the process of interaction among family members that determines the rules by which the family is governed. This is the family’s level of cohesion, its adaptability, and its communication style. Finally, these interactions work together to serve individual members and collective family needs;

(3) Family function is the output of the interactional system. Utilizing the resources available through its structure (input), the family interacts to produce responses that fulfill its needs; and (4) the family life cycle introduces the element of change into the family system. As the family moves through time, developmental and non-developmental changes alter the family structure and/or the family’s needs. These, in turn, produce change in the way the family interacts.” (Allen, et al., 2007)

Figure 1 — the Family System

Source: Allen et al. (2007)

The family is stated by Allen et al. (2007) to have many “attitudes, rules and communication patterns which help to define its boundaries.” Rules exist concerning ‘who is included in or given access to the family, such as extended family, in-laws, friends and neighbors…” (Allen, et al., 2007) the work of Kantor and Lehr (1976) relates various structural arrangements within families and made identification of the following as characteristics of the ‘closed’ type of family:

Tightly controlled access to family space – likely to have locked doors, fences and unlisted phones. Strangers are not admitted easily;

Connections of family members to outside systems are rigidly controlled by rules and implemented by those in authority – many rules exist about permitted activities and who can associate with whom;

New and different links to outside are difficult for members to develop – they tend to have few connections, but they are usually stable;

Privacy is valued. Members tend to be self-protective and sometimes secretive;

Values regarding roles and rules tend to be rigid;

Communication is tightly channeled with little expression of conflict;

High priority given allegiance to the family;

Can be affectionate, but controlled in expression;

Discipline and traditions are valued. There is low tolerance of differences; and Change is difficult and threatening. (Allen et al., 2007)

Families with physical boundaries that are ‘very open’ are stated to have the following characteristics:

Family members, friends and strangers enter and exit with relative ease;

There is little privacy – space is not well regulated internally or externally;

Members develop individual connections to external environment, do their own thing;

Planning is not valued so much as spontaneity;

There is a great deal of energy flowing out of family;

There is no clear-cut decision making process – rules tend to be fluid;

Uniqueness is prized and often encouraged;

Emotion and affection is expressed, but not in a consistent fashion; and Change can lead to chaotic situations; family has a tendency to “fly apart.” (Allen et al., 2007)

Stated to be situated in the middle of the previous two family types are those in which the family has well-defined and moderately open boundaries with the following characteristics:

There is easy access to family space, frequent guests, unlocked doors, freedom to exchange with outside;

Members can explore outside community and groups – tend to have numerous and strong connections;

Communication is relatively open, opinions and ideas exchanged openly, conflict can be openly expressed;

Rules are well-defined, but flexible;

Growth is encouraged, intimacy and nurturing patterns are adaptive, and uniqueness is tolerated within limits;

Closeness is encouraged. There is a balance between energy flow into and out of the system; and Change can be somewhat stressful but the family has resources to adapt. (Allen et al., 2007)

In addition to external boundaries the family system contains various subsystems that result in the creation of internal boundaries. Allen et al. (2007) states: “The subsystems could consist, for instance, of those members who belong to the same generation (such as the children) or the same sex (the men of the family) or those who have the same interests or functions. Obviously, one individual might belong to more than one subsystem. Over a period of time, rules develop about how the subsystems interact with each other, who is included in the subsystems, and how each member participates. In other words, a kind of boundary exists that defines the relationship between and among the subsystems.

The work of Morgaine (2001) entitled: “Family Systems Theory” states that family system theory emerged from ‘general systems theory’ by “scholars who had found it had many applications to families and other social systems. Any system is defined as a bounded set of interrelated elements exhibiting coherent behavior as a trait. Another definition is an assemblage of objects related to each other by some regular interaction or interdependence.

Families are considered systems because they are made up or interrelated elements or objectives, they exhibit coherent behaviors, they have regular interactions, and they are interdependent on one another.” (Morgaine, 2001)

The components of family system theory are stated to be those as follows:

(1) Family Systems have interrelated elements and structure. The elements of a system are the members of the family. Each element has characteristics; there are relationships between the elements; the relationships function in an interdependent manner. All of these create a structure, or the sum total of the interrelationships among the elements, including membership in a system and the boundary between the system and its environment;

(2) Family systems interact in patterns. There are predictable patterns of interaction that emerge in a family system. These repetitive cycles help maintain the family’s equilibrium and provide clues to the elements about how they should function;

(3) Family systems have boundaries and can be viewed on a continuum from open to closed. Every system has ways of including and excluding elements so that the line between those within the system and those outside of the system is clear to all. If a family is permeable and vague boundaries it is considered “open.” Open boundary systems allows elements and situations outside the family to influence it. It may even welcome external influences. Closed boundary systems isolate its members from the environment and seems isolated and self-contained. No family system is completely closed or completely open;

(4) Family systems function by the Composition Law: the Whole is More than the Sum of Its Parts. Every family system, even though it is made up of individual elements, results in an organic whole. Overall family images and themes are reflected in this holistic quality. Unique behaviors may be ascribed to the entire system that do not appropriately describe individual elements;

(5) Family systems use messages and rules to shape members. Messages and rules are relationships agreements which prescribe and limit a family members’ behavior over time. They are repetitive and redundant. They are rarely, if ever, explicit or written down. They give power; they induce guilt; they control or limit behaviors; and they perpetuate themselves and reproduce. Most messages and rules can be stated in one or a few words. For example, More is good, Be responsible, and Be Perfect are all examples of messages/rules;

(6) Family systems have subsystems. Every family systems contains a number of small groups usually made up of 2-3 people. The relationships between these people are known as subsystems, coalitions, or alliances. Each subsystem has its own rules, boundaries, and unique characteristics. Membership in subsystems can change over time. (Morgaine, 2001)

The work of Lidz (1963) as cited in the work of Anderson, Carter and Lowe entitled: “Human Behavior and the Social Environment” states findings after conducting study that there are three “sets of discrete but interrelated system functions performed by the family:

(1) the family provides physical care;

(2) the family provides nurturance; and (3) the family directs personality development. (1999)

It is suggested by Lidz that these functions “which are fundamental to human adaptation cannot be fulfilled separately at all and must be fused in the family.” (1963:45 in: Anderson, Carter and Lowe, 1999)

The work of Maruyama is stated to have “found the extent of family function specialization alarming. (1966 in: Anderson, Carter, and Lowe, 1999) the term monopolization was termed by Maruyama (1966) in describing the “state of affairs in which the child’s relationship to parents is confined to mother or father, or more precisely to one set of parents. The totality of children’s relationships to their parents sets narrow parameters for development and places excessive responsibility on the parents.” (Anderson, Carter and Lowe, 1999) This exclusivity was assumed according to Maruyama (1966) “as the norm by theories of personality and of many Western philosophies. This was not viewed as optimal by Maruyama who suggested integration of other family and community members into the life of the child.

Maruyama (1966) refers to this as the ‘family circuit’ and this has come to be referred to as the ‘social system’ of families by most professionals in this field of study and practice. The family therapy…

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