Encyclopedia of Couple and Family Therapy

2019 Edition
| Editors: Jay L. Lebow, Anthony L. Chambers, Douglas C. Breunlin

Collusion in Family Systems Theory

  • Dawn M. WirickEmail author
  • Lee A. Teufel-Prida
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-49425-8_252

Name of Theory

Collusion in family systems theory


In the formation of a dyadic relationship, each partner discovers in the other past and/or repressed parts of self. These aspects of self may be regarded as representations of needs and wishes repressed via defense mechanisms. A partner’s attraction is often based on the extent to which the partner is viewed as embodying the parts of self that have been repressed (Simon et al. 1985). Consequently, the concept of collusion in family systems theory is derived from projective identification.

Over the course of the relationship, what was viewed as initially attractive becomes an eventual source of conflict, and interpersonal strife emerges. Choosing a partner permits one the opportunity to complete one’s self, but also sets the stage for renewed conflicting wishes and needs (Simon et al. 1985). The new ways of relating to one another over time in the dyadic relationship are experienced as burdensome, and the partners become...

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Family Institute at Northwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • David Kearns
    • 1
  • Bahareh Sahebi
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Family MedicineUniversity of IowaIowa CityUSA
  2. 2.The Family Institute at Northwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA