Family Therapy Research Proposal

Pages: 18 (5932 words)  ·  Style: APA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 27  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Children

Generational Boundary Dissolution Among Adoptive Families

Contribution of This Research

Attachment, Relationships, and Adoption

Characteristics of Weak Family Boundaries

The Generational Gap

Learning to Set Boundaries

Role of the Therapist

Generational boundary dissolution among adoptive families

Generational boundary dissolution presents as a crisis in many families. Generational boundaries are important for the development of the individual, within the framework of the family system. The area of generational boundaries is a relatively new concept in the field of family therapy. At this point, many of the techniques used are based on theory, rather than empirically tested ideals. Research into this area is young, presenting many avenues for exploration and research.

Much of the research into generational boundaries is based on the two-parent family model (Madden-Derdich, Estrada, Ulloa, & Updegraff, et al., 2002). This research will utilize theory and methods developed to date, only it will apply it to a unique situation within the family structure. This research will utilize interactional analysis to examine generational boundary dissolution among families of adoptive children. The premise is based on the theory that parental boundaries are established early in life (Barber, 2001). By adolescence, these patterns are destined to have a dramatic impact on the development of adolescents.

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Children, who are adopted early in life, are more likely to resemble the generational boundary patterns of their adoptive parents. However, for children who are raised in one household and then adopted in their early adolescent years, the early generational boundaries established in their first family will have a dramatic impact on the function of their adoptive families. This research will use interactional pattern analysis to explore the generational boundary patterns in adoptive families that are symptomatic for generational boundary dissolution.

The Research Problem

Background of the Problem

Research Proposal on Family Therapy Assignment

Human society exists due to the existence of boundaries. Human beings have many different sets and levels of boundaries that help define where we view our place in the world. We have physical boundaries, which constitutes the immediate area around our bodies (Savage, 2002). We have intellectual boundaries where we demand respect for out own ideas and thoughts. Emotional boundaries involve respect for our feelings (Savage, 2002). Social boundaries are set for out limits to social contact. This boundary is crossed whenever someone criticizes another for their likes and dislikes. We also have sexual boundaries and money boundaries. We also have time boundaries, which involves respect for how someone chooses to get things done (Savage, 2002).

These boundaries are personal and everyone must set their own boundaries. Some of these are conscious boundaries and others are unconscious boundaries. When boundaries in any of these areas are crossed, conflict can result. When someone crosses a boundary, it makes us feel violated or angry. When someone crosses a boundary, it can be seen as a personal affront (Savage, 2002). Recognizing and respecting boundaries is a key to eliminating and avoiding conflict and challenges. Understanding personal boundaries is the key to understanding conflict and conflict resolution. Boundaries serve three primary purposes, to keep people from coming into our space, to keep us out of other people's spaces, and to give us a sense of completeness (Savage, 2002).

Within a family, members set boundaries. Where boundaries are nonexistent or weak, family members often intrude on each other's space (Savage, 2002). Outward signs of this are speaking for each other, feeling and thinking for each other (Savage, 2002). Often family members in a situation with weak boundaries will have trouble separating their own feelings from those of other family members. Research has demonstrated that family members from this type of family may have a poorly defined sense of self (Savage, 2002).

In families with weak boundaries, others in the family enter bedrooms and bathrooms without knocking (Savage, 2002). They may borrow something without asking, or they may share personal information without asking permission from that person (Savage, 2002). These intrusions are often the cause of family conflict and difficulty relating to one another. Often the person who does the intruding will not recognize that they have crossed a boundary, but the other person may see it differently. Often it does not occur to the person who is doing the intruding to ask permission from the other person. Permission is assumed in this case. The person doing the intruding acts as if they know what the other person would want and acts as if they are the authority on the other person.

Boundaries are defined by family culture and norms. There are two ends of the spectrum. On one end, the family has strictly defined boundaries. Everyone knows where everyone else stands and there are set consequences for stepping out of line. In other families, it is difficult to distinguish if boundaries even exist. It appears to be a free-for-all with everyone stepping on each other's toes, and everyone else expecting it. Many families fall somewhere in between these two ends of the spectrum. These expectations are a part of family culture.


Families that exhibit weak generational boundaries are often plagued by a variety of problems. They are conflict ridden, often caused when one person in the family steps across a boundary drawn by another. The children will be unwilling to express internal emotions, often burying them to maintain the peace. In a family with weak generational boundaries, individual development is stifled.

Family therapy recognizes the importance of establishing and maintaining appropriate boundaries between family members. Families with clearly established boundaries help to promote the development of well-adjusted family members. One of the key goals of family therapy is to help families establish and learn to maintain proper boundaries within the family system. This research will use this rationale as the key concept behind the proposed research.

An examination of current theory and practice in the area of generational boundaries and generational boundary dissolution reveals that many of the techniques and diagnostic tools are based on theory, rather than observation. One of the most pressing issues in this area of research is the ability to tie theory to clinical application. From a clinical perspective, the assessment of family structure can be assessed through interaction patterns that occur between various family members (Madden-Derdich, Estrada, Ulloa, & Updegraff, et al., 2002). Previous research in this area indicates that problems in families are a result of the breakdown of the power hierarchy that places the parent at the top (Madden-Derdich, Estrada, Ulloa, & Updegraff, et al., 2002). This forces the child to assume the spousal or parental role and generational boundaries are violated. Power struggles may result as the displaced parent or parents struggle to regain control.

It should be clear that generational boundaries play a key role in the development of an independent and autonomous individual. The dissolution of generational boundaries disrupts the normal parent-child relationship and redefines it in such a manner as to create a power struggle within the unit. Adopting a pre-teen to teen-age child requires major adjustments on both the new family and the child. The child will bring "baggage" with them from their formative years. Sometimes this baggage may include dissolution of family boundaries due to a parent who cannot define themselves as such. In this case, the adopted child may display the tendency towards a more mature family relationship, such as that of a parent or mate. They may have had to play a parental role towards younger siblings. These early experiences will help to define the manner in which they view relationships with their new adoptive parents. Children who have grown up in a parent or mate role may be resistive when placed in a family with clearly defined parent and child roles. This research will explore the parent-child roles in families who have adopted pre-teen or adolescent children.


Much of the information that could be found regarding generational boundaries is theoretical. Therefore, this research will be based on a theoretically-based premise regarding generational boundaries. The research will use interactional analysis to explore the following hypothesis:

H1: Children who have been adopted after the age of 10 will display parent-like or mate- like generational boundaries more frequently than children who have been in the same family since birth.

The null hypothesis will state that, "Children who have been adopted after the age of 10 will not display parent-like or mate-like generational boundaries statistically more frequently than children who have been in the same family since birth. The hypothesis will be examined using a comparison of the results of interactional analysis between these two groups.

Research Questions

As the field of research into generational boundaries is relatively new, many questions could be answered through research. Many areas need to be addressed. The problem of adoption in the teen years presents many adjustment problems for the families and the teen. This research will attempt to explore the root of problems related to switching generational boundary styles by using adopted pre-teens and teens. A comparison of these two chosen groups will allow us to explore issues related to generational boundaries beyond… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Family Therapy" Research Proposal in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Family Therapy.  (2009, January 18).  Retrieved October 31, 2020, from

MLA Format

"Family Therapy."  18 January 2009.  Web.  31 October 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"Family Therapy."  January 18, 2009.  Accessed October 31, 2020.