Finally the system either breaks down or may

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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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