Encyclopedia of Couple and Family Therapy

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

Triangles and Triangulation in Family Systems Theory

  • Jerry GaleEmail author
  • Bertranna A. Muruthi
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-49425-8_758

Name of Concept



Triangles; Triangulated


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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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of GeorgiaAthensUSA
  2. 2.Marriage and Family Therapy Program, Virginia Tech - Northern Virginia CenterFalls ChurchUSA

Section editors and affiliations

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