Encyclopedia of Couple and Family Therapy

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

Subsystem in Family Systems Theory

  • J. Gregory BriggsEmail author
  • David M. Morgan
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-49425-8_309

Name of Concept

Subsystem

Introduction

Subsystems are essentially systems within systems. Because all systems are ordered hierarchically, it is inevitable that subsystems will develop within a larger system (von Bertalanffy 1968). An individual may be a part of multiple subsystems. Common subsystems include parents, siblings, and parent-child relationships. Subsystems are defined by boundaries which indicate that each subsystem is distinct from the larger system as well as from other subsystems, while still recognizing their interrelatedness (Becvar and Becvar 1999). Such boundaries not only define the membership of subsystems but also the rules of interaction between those members. For example, the rules that govern the exchanges between parents differ from the rules that govern exchanges between siblings or exchanges between parents and children.

Theoretical Context for Concept

An emphasis on the importance of subsystems emerged early in the development of family therapy as pioneers...

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References

  1. Becvar, D. S., & Becvar, R. J. (1999). Systems theory and family therapy. Lanham: University Press of America.Google Scholar
  2. Bowen, M. (1971). The use of family theory in clinical practice. In J. Haley (Ed.), Changing families: A family therapy reader (pp. 159–192). New York: Grune and Stratton.Google Scholar
  3. Bowen, M. (1978). Family therapy in clinical practice. New York: Jason Aronson.Google Scholar
  4. Minuchin, S. (1974). Families and family therapy. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  5. von Bertalanffy, L. (1968). General systems theory: Foundations, development, applications. New York: George Braziller.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology, Counseling, and Family ScienceLipscomb UniversityNashvilleUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Eli Karam
    • 1
  1. 1.University of LouisvilleLouisvilleUSA