Encyclopedia of Couple and Family Therapy

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

Linear Causality in Family Systems Theory

  • Miranda Smith
  • Eli KaramEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-15877-8_285-1

Name of Concept

Linear Causality in Family Systems Theory



Linear causality is a framework for causation that attributes anything that happens within a system directly to some previous occurrence within the same system. The framework assumes there is a direct, one-way chain of responsibility between all behaviors in a system. Also in this framework, cause precedes effect in a sequential pattern with clear beginning and end. The most important part of family systems thinking is its departure from traditional individual therapies that utilize the notion of linear causality.

Theoretical Context for Concept

Prior to Gregory Bateson and colleagues’ extension of general systems theory to families in the mid-twentieth century, linear causality was the primary structure for understanding the onset and development of psychological illness and distress. It was a driving factor behind many non-systemic, individual psychotherapies. The...

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of LouisvilleLouisvilleUSA

Section editors and affiliations

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