Family Rules, Structure, and
Rules and Structure
• Rules -> _________ patterns -> structure
• Each family has unique structure
• __________ describe what is supposed to be;
_____ relate to what is.
• Remember rules are often _______/out of
How Do Rules and Structure Develop?
• Prenuptial agreement?
• Cultural Influences
• Family-of-Origin Influences
• “In your couple relationship, you either repeat
what you learned in your family or you tend to
do the opposite.” (Olson)
• Personality Influences/biological influences
Is there an ideal family structure?
Healthy families are similar in 3 ways:
1. Clear _________
2. Hierarchical __________:
In healthy families “there is an
unambiguous hierarchy of power, with
leadership in the hands of the parents, who
form a united coalition.” (Nichols)
3. ________ 4
• Satir’s: Healthy rules should support 5
freedoms: p___, t___, f___, c___, sa ___.
• Healthy/Unhealthy rules: p. 59-60
Burr, Day, and Behr: Families can only
operate when … shared, implicit,
_________ comfortable. p. 62.
Characteristics and Functions of
Rules (p. 61-62).
• Often implicit
• Allow for accountability
• Denote physical and psychological boundaries
• Regulate closeness and distance
• Regulate roles
• Regulate flexibility-rigidity and exceptions
• Address implementation and violation.
Dancing in Families
• Rule Sequences:
connected ______ of rules that governs a complex
pattern of behavior
• Involve a ______ pattern
• Can be healthy - rituals
• Can be unhealthy, called____________, p. 64.
• Sometimes called ______
• Examples, p. 64
• Example - Brice family, p. 17 Crucible; textbook
examples, p. 64.
Dances Couples Do
• Pursuer/Distancer Dance
• Drifting Dance
• Conflictual Dance
• The Circular Dance
• The Overfunction-Underfunction Dance
• Purpose of dances -
• Often regulate & control some ______ and deal
with issues of ___________________. p.68
Cohesion and Adaptability – Olson’s
• Cohesion __________ the forces which ____ family
• Families vary on cohesion (closeness)
• p. 69-70
• Dimensions measured by FACES inventory
Disengaged Separated Connected Enmeshed
• Adaptability _________; how easily
families can change or modify their rules
• Families vary in regard to
Rigid Structured Flexible Chaotic
Olson’s circumplex model, p. 70.
+ + +
+ + +
+ + +
There are nine Balanced types (+) and they are called Balanced because they are in the balanced range (3
central levels) on both closeness and flexibility.
In our studies of families, about 2/3 (66%) of families fall into the Balanced types. Also, our studies have
indicated that these Balanced types have the most healthy and happy families.
The four Unbalanced types (X) are less common and the most extreme because they are Unbalanced on both
dimensions of closeness and flexibility.
Over 80% of families that have major problems in their family (like adolescent runaways, drug use and
abuse, other types of abuse) and also those that come for family therapy fall into these four unbalanced12 types.
Family Beliefs and Ideology
• Family ideology - a ______belief system,
central to guiding family _____,
goals, and way of being
• Covey’s family _______ statement
• Mission statement would influence rules and rules
lead to predictable behavior.
In our marriage
we promise to work together and cooperate in love
rather than be pulled apart by our differences.
We realize that work, children, and other duties
will often come between us
We promise never to allow this for long
we realize that the foundation of our lives is our loving relationship.
So we pledge to honor our relationship,
nurture our friendship, and sustain our love.
Our family is a place where we will
love, encourage, and nurture each other.
We will teach each other about our similarities and differences
and learn to appreciate and respect both.
We will teach each other about the world outside the family
so that we will be better prepared to meet the challenges of that world.
We will know that the journey of life begins in closeness and involves
a gradual separation over time.
When we are close we will attempt to nurture and love
so that when we separate we will feel confident in making our own way.
So be it in our family.
Different Ideology Systems
• Sometimes called family _________
• Three types:
1. ______ – “right way” - traditional, parental
authority, somewhat rigid
2._____ – flexible, tolerant, negotiates
3. _______ – few set schedules and rules, individual
What happens when these families experience
• The ___________ principle – family tries
harder, exaggerates it own character. 16
The Importance of Early Understandings
• The Epigenesis Principle-
what is done in the ______ stages in a relationship
influences what can be and is done in later stages
• Concrete example
• When there is input that pushes for change
opposing forces in the family system attempt to preserve
the status quo.
• Morphostasis/morphostasis principle - the push to stay
the same - attenuating/negative feedback
• Morphogenesis/morphogensis principle – the push to
change – amplifying/positive feedback
Why is Change so Difficult in Families?
Burr, Day and Bahr
Early rules have significant ________ and are
associated with deeply felt ________
Many beliefs and feelings are __________ or
A rule becomes a part of a complex web of rules;
any attempt to change one rule has implications
concerning other things.
• Burr, Day, and Bahr state: (chap. 3, p. 77)
• “Anyone who thinks couples can go back and
restructure the basic aspects of their relationship
just does not understand the nature of family
• “A few parts of relationships can be changed later,
but a large number of things cannot,
and it usually takes a great effort to make even
• Although change difficult, change does occur
• Some examples that produce change:
- the birth of a first child,
- your mother-in-law coming to live with you,
- your child growing up and needing fewer rules
• Family not completely set or static
Stability may characterize each day
but some change does occur over time
What Produces Change?
• Expected Events – p. 78.
• Called ____________ changes-
Are predictable, expected part of life
• Couple has first child
• Child going off to school
• Teenager learning to drive
The Family Life Cycle: Six Stages
The unattached young adult
The family with young children
The family with adolescents
Launching children and moving on
The family in later life (p. 79)
Life course – many decisions and choices alter the life
course. Thus, life can take many directions.
Other events which produce change . . .
• Unexpected Events: called ________________
not an expected part of life course (p. 80).
- husband seriously injured in auto accident
- loss of job
- child arrested for drug possession
- adolescent announces he is gay
- child becomes seriously ill.
• Family does not usually have constant rate of
• but tend to have periods of relative stability
followed by change
• Periods of stability called ______
• Periods of change called _________.
What Individuals Learn as
Family Life Unfolds
• Judith Viorst’s Necessary Losses
• Roger Gould’s transformations
• False assumptions learned in childhood must be
• Approximately 22-28 (false assumptions)
1) Life is fair
2) There is one right way
3) Others can do for me what I am unable to do for
• Later false assumptions
1) When I know something intellectually, I
truly understand it
2) I understand those close to me quite well
3) I do not possess the undesirable
characteristics of my parents
4) There are no real threats to my security.