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Structural family theory is a useful perspective when organizing concrete intervention techniques within families. Salvador Minuchin developed the concept during the 1960s. The idea has continued to evolve over time through his work together with studies done by other scholars. Essentially, it focuses on family structure, putting into consideration the unspoken rules that organize interactions between family members. The proper understanding of the structural family theory facilitates the determination of dysfunctional occurrences within a family.

              Structural family theory development was a response to the need for interventions in the households that experienced multiple problems (Walsh, 2010). The model applies to any family. However, it works best with the ones experiencing issues such as physical illnesses, drug addiction, single parenthood, crime, and violence. According to Walsh (2010), whenever a family establishes the effective operation principles, the emotional lives and behaviors of its members develop satisfactorily.

Minuchin came up with the theory while working in Wiltwyck School where he observed boys exhibiting symptoms related to the dysfunctions in their families (Walsh, 2010). Consequently, he came up with the idea that one’s self-perception is directly proportional to the role they play within the family structure. For instance, if a person exhibits violent actions, the probability of their household experiencing such patterns is high. Therefore, through the understanding concept, one can trace certain behaviors that a person displays, enhancing the determination of whether the family is dysfunctional or not.

When using the structural family theory to determine if a family is dysfunctional or not, first of all, the potential household to use as the study sample is identified. Next, the way family members interact with each other is established. The interactions exhibit some behavior patterns to focus on when determining the circumstances under which individual family members display those characteristics while performing their roles. Equally, the critical view enables the investigator to understand the family’s organization together with its level of adaptation to various situations. Therefore, one can come up with an understanding of whether a family is dysfunctional or not depending on how the respective elements function.

 Structural family theory is crucial in helping to identify dysfunctional patterns in individual families. Its therapy mechanisms are aimed at correcting behavioral manifestations. The understanding of the family patterns such as alliances against other members can help in solving the conflicts appropriately.




Walsh, J. (2010). Theories for direct social work practice (2nd ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.





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