Encyclopedia of Couple and Family Therapy

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

Schismogenesis in Family Systems Theory

Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-15877-8_342-1

Name of Concept



Schismogenesis is a term coined by Bateson (1935) to describe types of interactions between individuals or groups (i.e., feedback loops) in which A’s behavior elicits a particular reaction from B, which then reinforces and amplifies A’s behavior and ultimately leads to a breakdown in the system. Schismogenetic sequences can be either symmetrical or complementary and the struggles they cause between parties are the result of “uncorrected positive feedback in the system” (Bateson 1972, p. 330).

Theoretical Context for Concept

Bateson’s identification of schismogenesis was born out of his observations of the Iatmul tribe in New Guinea in the late 1920s and early 1930s and he said that his reflections on this experience (Bateson 1936, 1958), took him to the “edge of what later became cybernetics” (Bateson 1972, p. xi). Thus, schismogenesis is a term used to describe interactions between individuals or groups that pre-dates the “feedback”...

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology, Counseling, and Family ScienceLipscomb UniversityNashvilleUSA

Section editors and affiliations

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