Encyclopedia of Couple and Family Therapy

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

Hierarchy in Family Systems Theory

  • Lorna LondonEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-49425-8_280

Name of Concept

Hierarchy in Family Systems Theory


Boundaries; Subsystems


Building a family is like building a house. The stronger the foundation, the safer the house. The hierarchy that exists within a family serves as one of the essential building blocks that helps to build the foundation upon which a family is constructed. With a strong foundation that has distinct boundaries between the hierarchical levels, the family can be a stable force with a strong edifice. But, without clear boundaries and with a weak hierarchical structure, the family unit can crumble and collapse under the pressure of the diffuse boundaries.

Theoretical Context for Concept

The concept of hierarchy within the family was a central tenet in structural and strategic family therapy theories (Haley 1976; Minuchin 1974). Hierarchies help us to understand the structure of the family and how the subsystems within the family help to regulate how decisions are made. The hierarchy refers to the...

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Midwestern UniversityDowners GroveUSA

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