Systems Theory

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Modern systems theories about families are derived from General System Theory (GST), which is both a transdisciplinary field of study and a theoretical framework in which various microlevel approaches are known as “systems theories.” Systems theorists seek to explain the behavior of complex, organized systems of all sorts—from thermostats to missile guidance computers, from amoebas to families. Commonly referred to as “systems theory,” GST is also a program of theory construction aimed at building concepts, postulates, principles, and derived theorems that apply universally across all domains of application. Hence, GST is a theory of systems in general. Although numerous bodies of special knowledge have been labeled as systems models or theories, the body of theory that may be thought of as embracing them all is that of GST. Indeed, some scholars consider GST to be broader than a theory, but rather an alternative Weltanschauung—a unique worldview (Ruben & Kim, 1975) that requires adopting “systems thinking.” In other words, systems thinking is a way of looking at the world in which objects are interrelated with one another.