Saturday, May 25, 2013

Family systems theory - the concept of the dysfunctional dyad.

(Note: In the past I have usually written here on my blog and then transferred some of the material to my FaceBook page. In recent times I have tended to adapt some of my writing for FaceBook such as this post here, which was presented in three sections on my FaceBook. It is now presented as a post here. If you wish to read some of the more recent writing I am doing now, just friend request me on Facebook.)

Traditional family systems theory says suicidal behaviour can be a leaving home problem. The suicidal teenager serves the function in the family triad where they distract the parents from focussing on their dysfunctional marriage. 

However it can be proposed that the leaving home problem may not necessarily be the result of a dysfunctional family triad but can be mainly based in the mind of the teenager and the parent and thus one has a dysfunctional dyad in the family.

Flower in pregnant tummy

The teenager has a strong need for separation and individuation and at the same time has a strong fear of it. The suicidal behaviour or ideation allows the teenager to remain attached to the parent(s) as it indicates to himself or herself that they are not coping with adult life. Hence they can justify to self reverting to the security of the pre existing symbiosis with mother because the stakes are so high. Others will also confer with this as they demonstrate that a young person's life is at stake here.

In the dysfunctional family dyad the level of fear of separation can exist in both parties in varying degrees. Mother and teenager may both have high fear of separation and a breakdown of the symbiosis. Or it can be high in the teenager and low in the parent or high in the parent and low in the teenager. The suicidality of the teenager prevents the separation from occurring.

The leaving home theory of psychological problems in teenagers can apply also for drug use, failure to get functional employment, social isolation, psychosis, eating disorders and so forth. 

However suicide can be seen to hold a special place amongst these because it involves the death of the person whereas the others do not. The vast majority of eating disordered teenagers will not die from their eating habits. Some anorexics can die from starvation but that would be seen as an act of suicide rather than an eating disorder. Some drug users can die from overdose but that vast majority of drug users do not. If they do that can be seen as an act of suicide as well.

Co dependent

Suicide as a leaving home problem is of course also symbolic. It is symbolic of the ultimate form of separation and leaving the symbiosis.

In family systems theory the concept of the triad rests on a remarkably simple principle - the distraction technique. The parent and child relate in such a way so as to distract the parents from focussing on marital disharmony. It seems almost inevitable that one must expand this to also include non pathological behaviour in the child. But of course this will never come to the attention of the psychotherapist. However it certainly needs to be proposed which I suppose I am doing right now!!


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