The family is the basic unit of the society and is primarily composed of the parents and their children. The family structure is made up of the executive subsystem and the sibling subsystem. The executive subsystem consists of the parents (husband and wife) while the sibling subsystem is comprised of the children.
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Within this setting, there are usually invisible boundaries that separate the two subsystems and dictate how the two should relate and how they should not relate. There are usually unspoken rules about what the two groups should engage in. These boundaries are important since they ensure that the different groups carry out their respective activities while maintain the connection to each other.
The family has a hierarchical structure that is made up of the parents at the top and the children below them. Healthy marriages assume the husband and the wife as equals. They should be united and their relationship should be at the top of their priorities. The children stem from the unity and love between the husband and wife.
Children should not dictate how the parents should go about with parenting or prevent them from seeing themselves as a couple. On the other hand, the parents should not neglect their children’s needs due to their romantic relationship. The children should respect the hierarchical structure in order to maintain healthy relationships with the parents and ensure harmony in the home.
Sometimes, boundaries may be weak and this may be seen in the way the different systems interrelate with each other. For example, a mother who constantly calls her children while at the workplace in order to instruct them to do their duties may show an over-involvement with the sibling subsystem. Another example is a husband who is always too quick to inform his mother whenever he has an argument with his wife. This is an indication of a weak boundary between the immediate family and the extended family.
A mother and her infant would operate as a unit at first. However, when the child stops breastfeeding, he learns that there are certain boundaries that should not be crossed. Healthy parents do not allow their children into their bedroom as they share intimate moments. Therefore, healthy boundaries promote behaviour that enhances respect between the parties involved.
Children should be trained how to respect boundaries so that they may grow into responsible adults. For example, those children that are trained how to behave while in their relatives’ homes would understand how to behave with other people. However, they should also be trained to know how to make the correct decisions when situations demand. For example, children should not be expected to obey without questioning. They should also know how to protect themselves from being exploited.
Since the family system works as a unit, every component affects all the others. For example, an alcoholic family member may distort the whole family since everyone would be affected by it. They would be affected by his violence, ill health and unavailability. Therefore, they would try to cover up for his mistakes and bail him out from jail when caught due to alcohol-related issues.
Such families are referred to as a destabilizing family system. In conclusion, the boundaries, hierarchies and the structure subsystems in the family setting are important aspects to observe in order to maintain healthy relationships within the family.