Unformatted text preview: , but when the fluctuation exceeds the range of stability the
system must respond in some new way. The system either breaks down or it
makes a leap into new levels of functioning. The change results in a new set of
patterns which, like the old pattern, is also bound by rules, and it, too, remains
unchanged so long as the environment is stable.
Hoffman summarizes the process: in response to environmental changes for
which the system is not yet designed, patterns of responding that have served
the family well, begin to fail. The family tries new solutions, many of which are
necessarily abandoned, leaving them in a state of confusion. The system enters a
period of crisis as their homeostatic tendencies result in increasingly wild
corrective attempts. Finally, the system either breaks down or “may
spontaneously make a leap to an integration that will deal better with the
changed field” (p. 56).
These discontinuous changes often occur, like symptom development, at times of
stress. Changes in the family composition are particularly demanding. There are
crises of accession when someone joins the family (marriage, birth) and crises of
dismemberment when members leave (divorce, death).
Symptoms and rapid changes in family functioning also tend to occur during the
negotiation of developmental stages. There are pressures, for example, as an
adolescent reaches a new, more independent, maturational level. While there is
no uniform agreement about how many developmental stages there are,
Hoffman names the major categories: “courtship, marriage, advent of young
children, adolescence, leaving of the children, readjustment of the couple, and
growing old and facing death” (p. 58). Chapter 4: Strategic & Systemic
Hoffman reports on the mechanism for discontinuous change. It draws from
Ashby’s work on similar changes in the physical world. Of the several types of
change mechanisms he reports, the most salient to families is “step-function [in
which there are] intervals of constancy separated by discon...
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- Spring '09
- Family therapy, therapist, Jay Haley, Nichols & Schwartz