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Family systems theory and importance for social work practice

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Family systems theory denotes the understanding of the family as a unit rather than individualism. This theory further postulates for a subsystem that informs the interrelationship between family members. Such subsystem includes, for example, the nuclear family subsystem, the siblings’ subsystem and the extended family subsystem. These subsystems play an important role in influencing the relationship that exist between the immediate and extended family that also include the community, for instance. On the other hand, this theory is important for social work practice because it provides a better understand of the relationship dynamics both in the immediate and the extend family respectively. Through this model, it is easier for a social worker to understand the cause of a problem or concern in the family that needs to be solved. Certain problems emerge from the past experiences and as such, this theory ensures that the social work not only focus on the immediate family, but also significant others such as the extended family to understand where the problem is emanating (Caldwell & Claxton, 2014).
Family systems concepts
Avenues of communication
The avenues of communication in a family can be verbal, vocal, facial expression, body movement or gesturing. In essence, every communication avenue in the family is meant to pass a particular message. Most families often develop their own communication styles geared at improving family cohesion (Caldwell & Claxton, 2014).
Family boundaries are necessary in terms of setting out responsibilities among the family members.

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For instance, clear boundaries define the authority that parents have over their children. On the other hand, other boundaries in the family include the rigid and diffuse boundaries. All these boundaries stipulate certain obligations for both the parent and children respectively. However, clear boundaries are associated with families that operate at the highest level. In addition, setting clear boundaries plays a role in the appropriate development of the individual family member and enhances the well-being of the family in general. This is because; every family member knows the limit of their boundaries in terms of family responsibilities (Dallos&Vetere, 2012).
Family subsystems
Family subsystems denote how families organize themselves into different groups. Such subsystems may include, for instance, the parent subsystem that involves the father and mother, the sibling subsystem that involves brothers and sisters and the extended subsystem that involves other relatives. These subsystems are important because they act as a social support system for the larger family that includes the nuclear and extended family (Dallos&Vetere, 2012).
Family roles
In a family, there are different roles for each family member such as the father being the bread winner, the mother taking care of family chores. On the other hand, children also have various roles in the family. For example, they assist their parents with various activities at the home. The other important role for the family is procreation. Most people enter into matrimonial relationship for purposes of raising a family (MacKay & Brown, 2013).
Triangular relationships
This is a relationship that involves three individuals; however, in such a relationship, it is the third person who influences the relationship of the other two (Dallos&Vetere, 2012).
Family rules
Every family has a set of rules that are supposed to guide their daily affairs. However, some of these rules emanate from the societal norms and families have an obligation to obey such rules (MacKay & Brown, 2013).
Life cycle adjustment
In any family, it comes a time when children, for example, have to leave home and start their own lives independently from their parent’s control. As such, parents have to adjust in terms of living without the presence of their children at home. On the other hand, adult children also have to adjust to living an independent life without parental control or supervision (MacKay & Brown, 2013).
Environmental stresses
There are various environmental stresses that impact negatively on family relationships. For instance, combining work and family roles tend to increase levels of stress for parents. The other example of environmental stress is the financial constraint related to raising a family (Caldwell & Claxton, 2014).
In today’s multicultural society, diversity among families is enhanced through intermarriage between individuals from different cultural backgrounds (MacKay & Brown, 2013).
Family cohesion
Family cohesion can be established by improving communication between family members. This helps to understand the needs of each family members and thus minimizing conflict interest between family members (MacKay & Brown, 2013).
Acculturation among family units can occur through learning and accommodating cultures of other families from different communities. As a result, families from different cultural backgrounds are able to live together in the same neighborhood because they have adapted to each other’s culture (MacKay & Brown, 2013).
Family resources and strengths
Family resources and strengths emanate from significant others who act as the social support system for the family. The support network can come from friends, relatives and the community (Dallos&Vetere, 2012).
Dysfunctions in the family
Dysfunctions in the family emerge as a result of relationship problems that affect both parents and their children. On the other hand, these problems can be mitigated by seeking the help of a therapist or social worker (Dallos&Vetere, 2012).
Family equilibrium
Family equilibrium denotes a situation where family members need to understand each other in order to function without conflict. This may involve setting up rules in the family to ensure there is order with regard to each family member committing to their responsibilities or expectations (Caldwell & Claxton, 2014).
Family systems theory is necessary for understanding the different relationship dynamics that emerge in the larger family that also include other relatives. In essence, family systems theory can help social workers to understand the various support systems available for individual family members.
Caldwell, K., & Claxton, C. (2014).Teaching Family Systems Theory: A Developmental-
Constructivist Perspective.Contemporary Family Therapy: An International Journal, 32(1), 3-21.
Dallos, R., &Vetere, A. (2012).Systems Theory, Family Attachments and Processes of
Triangulation: Does the Concept of Triangulation Offer a Useful Bridge? Journal of Family Therapy, 34(2), 117-137.
MacKay, L., & Brown, J. (2013).Collaborative Approaches to Family Systems Supervision:
Differentiation of Self.Australian & New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy, 34(4), 325-337.

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