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Assessing Family System Functioning

This activity is designed for use by the consultant in assessing the level of dysfunction or disorganization within the family. It has been adapted from a more general organizational crisis model and has real utility for determining whether or not the family can benefit from this educational approach.  The activity identifies six variables on which the family is to be elevated by the trainer.  Below each variable are four descriptors related to the variable.  Through observation and discussions with the family, the trainer should simply determine which descriptor best describes the family in terms of the variable in question.  For example, are family relationships best described as fragmented, protective, supportive, or interdependent.  For trainers for whom the descriptors do not quickly communicate the concept or idea, reading the discussion that follows the activity may be useful as a preliminary to completing the activity for a specific family.

Once the family has been rated on all six variables, simply add together the numerical values of the descriptors checked.  This will result in a family assessment score from six to twenty-four.  Generally speaking, families who function in the upper third of the range (19-24) are excellent candidates for this educational approach.  Families who function in the lower third of the range (6-12) may derive some benefit from the approach but will need interventions that are considerably more comprehensive and therapeutically powerful.  The trainer will probably get somewhat mixed results with families in the middle third of the range.

Simply check the appropriate descriptor, noting the number of the descriptor represents the numerical value for that descriptor.


1. Fragmented

2. Protective

3. Supportive

4. Interdependent

Extrafamilial Relationships

1. Disconnected

2. Alienated

3. Reciprocal (mutuality)

4. Coordinated


1. Random

2. Ritualized

3. Serial (searching)

4. Congruent

Decision Making

1. Paralyzed

2. Autocratic

3. Participatory

4. Task centered

Problem Solving

1. None

2. Mechanistic

3. Explorative

4. Flexible


1. None

2. Expedient

3. Synthesizing

4. Integrative

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