Encyclopedia of Couple and Family Therapy

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

Reductionism in Family Systems Theory

  • Nathan D. WoodEmail author
  • Jeffrey L. Reed
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-49425-8_341

Name of Concept

Reductionism in Family Systems Theory.


Couple and family therapists (CFTs) are frequently asked by individuals to help find a hidden reason, or causal explanation, behind the problems they are having. The implicit assumption is that if the “why” is uncovered and subsequently “fixed,” the problem will then disappear. This rationale is at the heart of reductionist thought. On the other hand, a family systems view of “the problem” illuminates the context and patterns within relationships and potentially limits unwarranted blame leveled at one individual. Each perspective holds valuable insights, and there has fortunately been substantial movement in the field that allows for the integration of elements of reductionism and systems theory.

Theoretical Context for Concept

Reductionist thought is commonly associated with Descartes (1596–1650) who posited that the key to understanding something is to reduce it down to its basic elements. Reductionism, and its...

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of KentuckyLexingtonUSA

Section editors and affiliations

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