Encyclopedia of Couple and Family Therapy

2019 Edition
| Editors: Jay L. Lebow, Anthony L. Chambers, Douglas C. Breunlin

Game Theory in Relation to Family Systems Theory

  • Patrick S. TennantEmail author
  • Paige D. Roane
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-49425-8_277

Name of Theory

Game theory


Game theory, “the formal study of cooperation and conflict” (Turocy and von Stengel 2002, p. 403), is used in psychology, economics, and political science to understand how and why strategic decisions are made by interdependent parties (be they individuals, families, or large collectives such as nations) in a given situation (or “game”) (Osborne 2004). Together with general systems theory and cybernetics, game theory was influential in the development of family systems theory and several important schools of family therapy (White et al. 2008; Cicchetti 2016).

Prominent Associated Figures

Gregory Bateson is the primary figure associated with the connection of game theory and family systems theory, but the MRI group and their approach to family therapy were doubtlessly influenced by it as well (Heims 1977).


Though many variations of the ideas existed prior, game theory as it is presently understood was largely brought to life in the...

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The University of Texas at AustinAustinUSA
  2. 2.Nick Finnegan Counseling CenterHoustonUSA
  3. 3.Houston Family TherapyHoustonUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • David Kearns
    • 1
  1. 1.Iowa CityUSA