Retrospect and Prospect in the Psychological Study of Families

By James P. McHale; Wendy S. Grolnick | Go to book overview

Foreword
Philip A. Cowan
University of California, Berkeley
The initial stimulus for this exciting and original volume was a conference organized at Clark University to honor John Elderkin Bell, the father of family therapy. It is hard to conceive now, 50 years after Bell's seminal contributions in the 1950s, what a shift in world view he stimulated by seeing whole families in his clinical practice, even when the person referred was a young child. It was an almost shocking arture from the practice of treating children in individual therapy, S mothers seen as “collateral” to the treatment process, and fathers rarely seen at all.If the first half of the 20th century was the time of grand theories of individual development (Freud, Jung, Watson, Gesell, Piaget, Skinner), the second half can now be seen as an attempt to understand the development and psychopathology of the individual in context, with the family as a primary biological, social, and psychological influence on development across the life span, Although Sociology and Anthropology have longer histories in focusing on the family, the move to study families in Psychology and sychiatry came first from family therapists in the 1950s with Bell and Ackerrnan on the East Coast, and Bateson, Jackson, Satir, and Haley on the West Coast. These theorist-clinicians, and others that followed eseciall Bowen, eavers, Epstein, Framo, McGoldrick, the Minuchins, Walsh, Wynne, and hitaker) set a challenge for researchers that has not entirely been met. Instead f an individually focused view in which psychopathology and adaptation e located in the patient, they argued for the importance of understanding the systern in which the patient lived. From this deceptively straightforward premise a new paradigm took hold,Family systems theories share six major assumptions:
1. The whole is greater than (different from) the sum of its parts;
2. The system is composed of interconnected subsystems (parentchild, marital, sibling);
3. Because subsystems are interconnected, a change in any individual relationship affects all the other individuals and relationships in the family;

-xv-

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