Encyclopedia of Couple and Family Therapy

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

Triangles and Triangulation in Family Systems Theory

Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-15877-8_758-1

Name of Concept




Triangulation or triangling is defined in the AAMFT Family Therapy Glossary as the “process that occurs when a third person is introduced into a dyadic relationship to balance either excessive intimacy, conflict, or distance and provide stability in the system” (Evert et al. 1984 p. 32). This concept is associated with Murray Bowen (1978) who saw triangulation as a way to reduce anxiety in a dyadic relationship. Nichols and Schwartz (1998) note that Bowen developed the concept of triangulation in the late 1950s when he was involved on a NIMH project working with hospitalized families of a family member with schizophrenia. The use of triangles has also been found in the work of Salvador Minuchin (1974) and the “rigid triad,” as well as Jay Haley (1967) with the “perverse triangle,” among others. Although different in perspectives, they all share the same foundation of a third person being brought into a...

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of GeorgiaAthensUSA
  2. 2.Human DevelopmentVirginia TechFalls ChurchUSA

Section editors and affiliations

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