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Circular Causality in Family Systems Theory

Name of Theory

Circular Causality


Circularity; Mutual causality; Pseudo-feedback; Reciprocal causality; Reciprocity; Recursive relationship


Circular causality is a concept that creates a shift in how we understand interactions. Traditionally, a linear continuum consisted of a definitive start and end point where family issues were thought to be rooted to a singular cause. The concept of circular causality helps to move away from the traditional way of viewing interactions to a more relational context focusing on the interactions between two events.

Circular causality focuses on the reciprocal relationship between two events. The perspective of reciprocal relationships stems from the foundations of cybernetics, which refers to the regulatory action where one part of the system impacts another. A reciprocal perspective moves away from the mechanical way of viewing systems (individualistic) toward a relational viewpoint with a focus on interactional patterns between...

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Correspondence to Lisa Kelledy .

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Kelledy, L., Lyons, B. (2019). Circular Causality in Family Systems Theory. In: Lebow, J.L., Chambers, A.L., Breunlin, D.C. (eds) Encyclopedia of Couple and Family Therapy. Springer, Cham.

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