Encyclopedia of Couple and Family Therapy

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

Positive Feedback in Family Systems Theory

  • Miranda Smith
  • Eli KaramEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-49425-8_301

Name of Concept

Positive Feedback in Family Systems Theory


Morphogenesis; Positive feedback loops


Positive feedback occurs in a family system when members respond to the introduction of new information in such a way that destabilizes the unit. The feedback is labeled “positive” not because of intended valence, inherent health, or value to the system but rather to indicate the presence of an active shift away from the standing rules, roles, and norms of the system.

Theoretical Context for Concept

Positive feedback was extended to the realm of family systems theory after anthropologist Gregory Bateson’s participation in the Macy Conferences on Cybernetics in 1946. At the conferences, Bateson worked alongside Norbert Wiener, a mathematician who studied how machines and their control processes become self-regulating via the automated application of output data as new input data (Stagoll 2006). Bateson applied the notion that systems teach themselves to react to their...

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  1. Stagoll, B. (2006). Gregory Bateson at 100. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy, 27(3), 121–134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of LouisvilleLouisvilleUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Douglas C. Breunlin
    • 1
  1. 1.The Family InstituteNorthwestern UniversityChicagoUSA