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General systems theories emerged in the biological and social sciences following World War II This led to the conceptualization of the individual as an interdependent part of larger social systems Systemic therapy does not focus on how problems start but rather on how the dynamics of relationships influence the problem The therapists goal is to alter the dynamics of the relationships rather than to focus only on the behavior or internal dynamics of individuals For example if a child is having temper tantrums attention would be given to the stage of family development the quality of communication between its members and the clarity and flexibility of family roles In the family the executive subsystem is that of the parents the sibling subsystem is that of the children Invisible boundaries--unspoken rules about who does what with whom--are drawn around each and around the immediate family itself so that each subsystem can carry out its family-stabilizing tasks while remaining connected to the others One of the most common family problems is a weak boundary between subsystems A woman making several calls a day from work to instruct her teenagers on how to dress for school what to say when they turn in homework and so forth indicates over-involvement with the sibling subsystem a man who calls or visits his mother every time he argues with his wife shows a weak boundary between the immediate and extended families In therapy its quite common to see a little boy suddenly make everyone laugh at precisely the moment the therapist is asking the uncomfortable parents how their marriage is going Without knowing it the boy usually prompted by some subtle signal from his parents protects the family by taking the heat off them and their fragile relationship The therapist seeing the family operating as a whole self-preservation through distraction rather than as isolated individuals Mom Dad the son might then comment In alcoholic families the
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