Family Systems Theory (AN)

  • Created by: rosannaaa
  • Created on: 05-04-18 13:00
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  • FST focuses on mother-daughter relationships more to explain AN because AN affects females more than males.
  • ENMESHMENT - members of anorexic families are overly involved with each other,
  • Boundaries are fuzzy, result of poorly defined roles, lack of leadership.
  • Spend a lot of time together, constantly impinge upon each others privacy.
  • Become enmeshed because self identities of each member are tied up with one another.
      • Allowed to fester until crisis develops. AN girl refuses to eat as family refuse to discuss there is anything wrong.
      • The daughters confusion is expressed in 3 major symptoms: distorted body image, ignores hunger, loss of control.
      • RIGIDITY - Interactions with AN family are very inflexible.
  • OVERPROTECTIVENESS - Family members constantly involved in protecting each other from external threats.
  • Nurture one another excessively, which reinforces family loyalty and no room for independence
  • Palazzoli 1974 described how the mother of a daughter with anorexia in enmeshed family understood her role as personal sacrifice
  • They deny the need for change and work hard to maintain things as they are.
  • Problems arise when circumstances change, due to internal pressure or external threat. Family is too rigid to adapt.
  • The mother moves to quash the attempt at self-differentiation. Leading to dysfunctional behaviour
  • CONFLICT AVOIDANCE - the priority of the family is to avoid conflict and suppress it if it occurs.
  • E.g. no discussion where a different opinion may arise.
  • all decisions she made were for the benefit of her daughter.
  • AUTONOMY AND CONTROL - Minuchin argued that families exhibiting features outlined above are actively preventing its members exercising autonomy and control.
  • Bruch 1978 suggests anorexia is caused by the daughters struggle to achieve the autonomy and control she craves.
  • The mother in particular is domineering, intrusive.
  • Self starvation is a desperate attempt to control her self identity.
  • Thinner she gets, the greater her degree of control.
  • Gains autonomy by disrupting her dependent relationship with mother.


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