A system is a set of related elements that interact dynamically with each other and the environment, and have identifiable properties. The key elements of a family system are its members + beliefs + roles + rules + assets + limitations + goals + boundaries + subsystems (e.g. siblings) + environment – a larger system of systems, or metasystem. Understanding these elements and how they interact can help people assess how well any family is “functioning” (nurturing) and what can improve that.
Growing evidence since the 1950s suggests that therapy based on family-systems principles is more likely to produce desired lasting change than working with individuals. This is because personal and relationship “problems” (unmet needs) are often promoted by the multi-generational environment (system).
By Peter K. Gerlach, MSW