Encyclopedia of Couple and Family Therapy

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

Morphogenesis in Family Systems Theory

  • Miranda Smith
  • Eli KaramEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-49425-8_288

Name of Concept

Morphogenesis in Family Systems Theory


Positive feedback loop


Morphogenesis, meaning “creation or beginning of shape,” is the cybernetic process that occurs when a family system reacts to a perceived change by moving away from its status quo (Hoffman 1981).

Theoretical Context for Concept

Morphogenesis is a tenet of Ludwig von Bertalanffy’s general systems theory for understanding organizational behavior as nonlinear (Bertalanffy 1968). In a family systems context, morphogenesis is the process by which families actively change in response to new information and stimuli. Morphogenesis results when positive feedback loops* initiate and amplify a family system’s deviation away from its homeostatic state.


In the family system, morphogenesis describes a family’s ability to grow and adapt to change while maintaining balance. In all families, there is an ongoing dynamic tension between trying to maintain stability and introducing change....

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  1. Hoffman, L. (1981). Foundations of family therapy: A conceptual framework for systems change. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  2. von Bertalanffy, L. (1968). General system theory: Foundations, development, applications. New York: George Braziller.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of LouisvilleLouisvilleUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Douglas C. Breunlin
    • 1
  1. 1.The Family InstituteNorthwestern UniversityChicagoUSA