Basic Family Therapy, Sixth Edition by Philip Barker, Jeff Chang(auth.)

By Philip Barker, Jeff Chang(auth.)

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In varying degrees they may provide financial and material help to needy families. In the past, and even today in some parts of the world, many of the functions now carried out by society’s agencies were performed by the extended family. This consisted of a kinship network of grandparents, uncles, aunts, adult siblings, cousins and other relatives. Sometimes people unrelated by blood, but living in the same social network, also participated. But in industrial, especially large urban societies, a smaller role is generally played by the extended family and the neighbourhood community.

These are related as much, perhaps even more, to the non-verbal behaviour of those involved and to the context of the communication as they are to the semantic content of what is said. It is well known that non-verbal cues, as well as the context of a communication, can convey, for example, that something is being said as a joke, or a threat, or an apology and so on, even though the words used are the same. Watzlawick et al. (1967) proposed some ‘tentative axioms of communication’. They considered that these properties of communication had ‘fundamental interpersonal implications’, which have provided the basis for much work done by family therapists.

Bowen’s concept of the ‘undifferentiated ego mass’ is another example of the application to families of ideas derived from the study of individual psychopathology. Bowen originally used this term, which he later discarded, to describe the ‘central family oneness’ he observed in many families, especially those of patients suffering from schizophrenia. He believed family members had not become emotionally autonomous to a healthy and appropriate degree (Bowen, 1961). Satir (1967) wrote of the relationship between individual psychopathology and family dynamics.

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