Families with Adolescents

Part of the series Advancing Responsible Adolescent Development pp 33-39


Family Systems Theory

  • Stephen M. GavazziAffiliated withDepartment of Human Development and Family Science, The Ohio State University Email author 

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Family systems theory provides users with a holistic framework that centers attention on the interactive and bidirectional nature of relationships within families with adolescents. The family systems framework enjoys widespread use in the family intervention literature, as well as having been increasingly employed within the child and adolescent developmental literatures. In the present chapter, attention is paid to a number of concepts that are related to the understanding of the family as a self-organizing unit. In particular, the systems concept of the steady state is used to discuss the balance of stability and change that must be struck in families with adolescents as members negotiate the demands of this developmental period. Critiques of the family systems approach also are covered, including especially empirical limitations associated with its generating descriptive rather than explanatory abilities. Questions about its generalizability to families with adolescents in collectivist or otherwise non-Western societies are also addressed.