Types of Families – Part 1

Types of Families – Part 1

Someone asked if there were ways to categorize family types, like there is a way to categorize attachment styles.  There are probably several ways to mark the types of families, but the most accepted and researched way is with a test called FACES IV.

That stands for “Family Adaptability and Cohesion Evaluation Scale, fourth edition.”n The test was developed by David Olson at the University of Minnesota, and is al;so a part of the PREPARE/ENRICH premarital and marital inventories as well.

Imagine you draw a large box on a sheet of paper.  Across the bottom line of the box would be a scale representing Cohesion.  It is a continuum that  moves from one  extreme–Disengaged  to the other extreme–Enmeshed.   Up the side of the box is a line that represents the Adaptability scale.   It is a continuum that moves from one extreme–Rigid to the other extreme–Chaotic.

Let’s look first at the Cohesion scale.  What it is measuring is the emotional bonding that family members have with one another.  The Disengaged family is characterized by a lack of emotional bonding and attachment.  When looking at the Attachment style, the members of this family would probably be “avoidently attached,” or very self-sufficient.  Closeness and family loyalty are not very valued in this family.  They value independence much more.  Typically members of this type family have strong relationships outside the family, but very little “togetherness” inside the family.

The other extreme on this continuum is the Enmeshed family.  This family is all entangled with each other.  It’s hard to tell where one person ends and the other begins.  There is almost an extreme sense of closeness, and independence is seen as being disloyal to the family.  Boundaries within this type family are almost non-existent, but strong when it comes to outside relationships.  These families are characterized by the saying “family business stays family business.”  Their attachment style would tend to create the “Anxious attachment” style.

In between these two extremes are the Attached families.  They have a balance between a sense of individuality without losing the connectedness they share.  In these families, people enjoy being together, but can equally relate to friends outside the family.  There is mutual respect, freedom of activity, and support for individual uniqueness.  People from this type of family would probably experience “secure attachments”styles.

In the next posting, we’ll look at the Adaptability scale.

Question:  Where would you put your family on the cohesion scale?

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2 Responses to Types of Families – Part 1

  1. Trish says:

    Family of origin was chaotic and disengaged. Marriage was slightly less chaotic and slightly more engaged, although by the time we were separated, the only area of the PREPARE/ENRICH scale we matched on at all was spirituality. (not sure what the exact term was but we scored a moderate connection on family/in-law stuff and a high connection on spiritual stuff but zero on everything else – the counselor said he had never seen that before!)

    Blog note – I know your son handles the blog stuff, and I wanted to suggest that he put a thumbnail of just your face in the sidebar so that when people share to facebook the image that transfers is a better one. Right now it’s just a small part of your header and not recognizable as anything. :)

  2. andre says:

    Great posting Dr. Stoop…I remember reading about this topic in college..I think it was also referred to as the Circumplex model…

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