Encyclopedia of Couple and Family Therapy

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

Family Structure

Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-15877-8_269-1

Name of Concept

Family Structure


Family structure is a concept that is rooted in the classic models of marriage and family therapy, most notably as part of the theory and techniques of structural family therapy and strategic family therapy. It describes the organizational principles that influence the family system, including overt and covert patterns of communication and behavior that sustain family roles, rules, and hierarchy. More recently, the concept has appeared as part of Integrative Problem-Centered Metaframeworks Therapy (IPCM) developed by Breunlin and his colleagues (Breunlin 2011a).

Theoretical Context for Concept

The concept of family structure informs the theory and techniques of Structural Family Therapy, developed by Salvador Minuchin and colleagues in the 1960s (Vetere 2001). To develop the concept of family structure, Minuchin drew directly upon the work of Talcott Parsons, a sociologist who developed structural theories of socialization and the family...


Breunlin Strategic Family Therapy Sibling Subsystem Human-structure System Salvador Minuchin 
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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Couple and Family Therapy/Council for RelationshipsJefferson College of Health Professions, Jefferson (Philadelphia University + Thomas Jefferson University)PhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.Emerald City Sanctuary, PLLCSeattleUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • David Kearns
    • 1
  • Bahareh Sahebi
    • 2
  1. 1.Iowa CityUSA
  2. 2.The Family Institute at Northwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA