Helping Family Members with Maladaptive Communication 117 parent-child system are from different generations and power levels. It provides members with the opportunity to recreate and socialize with one another. The sibling system includes members who are on a more equal footing with each other with respect to power and fosters cooperation and negotiation skills when there is only one child, these skills are learned from interactions with peers and extended family members. The functions of each of these subsystems are essentially the same across cultures and generations. What differs is how members of each system inter- act with one another and with others outside the subsystem this determines how well each subsystem is able to perform its function. The functioning of the subsystems is interdependent and complementary. Each reinforces the other. 5. Family Processes Five processes guide how members interact with one another and influence how a family and its various subsystems perform their functions. Communication patterns reflect, reinforce, and promote adaptive or maladaptive functioning. Healthy family functioning requires a constant give-and-take, where members clarify and qualify what they say and ask for and are receptive to feedback. Members’ verbal and nonverbal communication is congruent members say what they mean and mean what they say. Family secrets are kept to a minimum. The more communication patterns deviate from these characteristics, members may be caught in double-bind situations in which they cannot win: if they meet one set of demands, they violate another. A second process guides affective expression. There is no one right way for members to express feelings, but they need to know that they are valued, and they need to develop ways to express more negative feelings like anger, frus- tration, and disappointment. This leads to a third process, which reflects how family members manage conflict and disagreement. In both cases, healthy fam- ily functioning depends upon members’ ability to communicate clearly and unambiguously and be responsive to feedback. Family norms that govern communication patterns also reflect and rein- force members’ separateness and connectedness to one another. Families must strike a balance—which changes over time in response to members’ needs— between encouraging connections and intimacy among members and allowing autonomy and independence. Families also develop norms governing relationships between members and extended family and significant others. The family as a whole and its members develop relationships and interactions with others outside the family system, including parents and siblings of adults in the family and parents of siblings
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