Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




A systems model has been proposed as useful theoretical framework for the study of incestuous families (Alexander, 1985) and is frequently used in the therapeutic treatment of the victim of sexual abuse and his or her perpetrator (Larson and Maddock, 1986). The purpose of this study was the construction and standardization of an instrument for assessing a multiaxial model of enmeshed and disengaged family systems which is based on the prior work of Minuchin et al. (1978) and Kog et al. (1987).

Minuchin et al. (1978) suggest that enmeshment, conflict-avoidance, over-protectiveness and rigidity are four characteristics that are key to an understanding of the behavioral transactions that occur in an enmeshed family system. Kog et al. (1987) suggest that these family traits are better conceptualized as dimensions and contrasted enmeshment with disengagement, rigidity with adaptability, conflict-avoidance with problem solving, and over protectiveness .with intrafamilial tension.

In the proposed model, dimensions similar to Kog's were formulated. However, the sub-dimension of enmeshment was contrasted with detachment, conflict-avoidance with confrontation, protection with punishment, and rigidity with adaptability.

In the present study, a test instrument consisting of 40 paired statements was developed. To answer each item, subjects were asked to choose the statement that best fit his or her family and rate it on a 5 point likert-scale format, ranging from "fits slightly" to "fits exactly"

The test instrument was administered to 626 male and female subjects. The results were factor analyzed using a principal components, varimax rotation. The initial analysis resulted in 12 factors on which all items had loadings of .40 or higher. The most meaningful and parsimonious solution resulted in six factors consisting of 23 items that could account for 49.3% of the test variance.

These factors were renamed as scales. Scale 1 was named Family Enmeshment/ Detachment, Scale 2 was named Information Repression/ Confrontation, Scale 3 was named Structural Homeostasis/ Entropy, Scale 4 was named Boundary Permeability/ Restriction, Scale 5 was named Parental Coalition/ Triangulation and Scale 6 was named Resistance/ Obediance to Authority.

A revised model was developed in order to incorporate the dimensions that resulted from the current study. As the overall distribution of scores in this study found a marked bias towards one or another statement within many items, it is suggested that the forced-choice format be abandoned in future uses of the inventory.

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