Encyclopedia of Couple and Family Therapy

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

Open Systems in Family Systems Theory

  • Benjamin E. CaldwellEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-49425-8_295

Name of Concept

Open systems in family systems theory


Permeable boundaries


Open systems are characterized by at least some degree of openness to being impacted by the larger systems in which they are embedded. In general systems theory, open systems engage in an ongoing exchange of matter, energy, and information with the external world (von Bertalanffy 1969). The concept of open systems has been applied specifically to family systems as a means of conceptualizing how the family interacts with outside social systems.

Theoretical Context

The characteristics of open systems were described by von Bertalanffy and specifically applied to family therapy by Watzlawick, Bavelas, and Jackson (1967), among others. von Bertalanffy postulated that classic laws of thermodynamics applied to closed systems, but not to open systems. As open systems are a fundamental concept of systems theory, all systemic models of family therapy integrate the idea, though some models more...

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  3. Watzlawick, P., Bavelas, J. B., & Jackson, D. D. (1967). Pragmatics of human communication: A study of interactional patterns, pathologies, and paradoxes. New York: NortonGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.California State University NorthridgeLos AngelesUSA

Section editors and affiliations

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