The major difficulty with applying structural balance theory to an understanding of families is that this theory was originally devised within a framework of individual psychology. The laws of relatedness described by balance theory were used to promote a widely shared premise: that a state of "cognitive dissonance" or perceptual inconsistency creates discomfort which a person will attempt to correct. The main emphasis was on the focal person's attitudes, sentiments, and cognitions. As a result, explanations having to do with his social context -- his family or other groups -- became invisible. However, the theory contains core ideas that offer clues to some of the rules governing relationships in families and kin groups, and is particularly applicable to triadic behavior patterns in families with psychotic members. The patterns that balance theory predicts widen the possibilities of clinical intervention.
The tenets of balance theory, derived by Dorwin Cartwright and Frank Harary from research by Fritz Heider, rest on the premise that linked sets of relationships abhor interior contradictions 1 Heider's interest was in cognitive fields, and he hypothesized that such fields would tend toward a consistency of attitudes or sentiments. He