Friday, June 7, 2013

Centripetal vs. Centrifugal Families.

This is a relatively simple concept, but I thought it was so interesting!  So just as we have centripetal and centrifugal forces in physics, one theory suggests that there are two family styles as well--centripetal and centrifugal.

According to the Beavers Model extreme centripetal families tend to be focused on the relationships within the family.  They look for fulfilling relationships mostly from inside their immediate family.

Extreme centrifugal families are the opposite as they search for relationship satisfaction outside the family.  These families generally express anger more openly than centripetal families.

While most families fall within the realm of normal and healthy, what I found interesting is what happens when one of these two styles gets out of control.

Research has suggested that centripetal (focused inside) families who struggle with boundaries, communication, shared goals, family focus, and other chaotic exchanges tend to produce schizophrenic offspring.  Of course schizophrenia is not all nurture, and has biological beginnings, but it can get out of control and exhibit itself more strongly in this type of environment.

When these same centripetal families are on the other side of the spectrum and end up tyrannically controlling each other, boundaries are rigid, and depression or rage are seen, the offspring are often severely obsessive.

When centripetal families have pretty good communication, but tend to control through what is thought of as love, and anger, anxiety, depression or other mental health issues are dealt with by distance and repression, the offspring are likely to be neurotic.  (Neurotic here means exhibiting symptoms of anxiety, depression, OCD, or other mental health issues)

Centrifugal (focused outside) families face an entirely different spectrum of possibilities for their offspring when their centrifugality gets out of control.

Centrifugal families who struggle with boundaries, communication, shared goals, family focus, and other chaotic exchanges tend to produce sociopathic offspring.  So rather than schizophrenia (an internal struggle), these children end up struggling with their relationships with other people.

When these same centrifugal families are on the other side of the spectrum and end up tyrannically controlling each other, boundaries are rigid, and depression or rage are seen, the offspring often struggle with borderline personality issues.  I think Wikipedia does a pretty solid job of explaining borderline personality disorder, but it's basically highly emotional and unstable.  Emotions in someone with BPD can change from ecstatic to suicidal in a matter of seconds and they tend to be paranoid about relationships and stability.

When centrifugal families have pretty good communication, but tend to control through what is thought of as love, and anger, anxiety, depression or other mental health issues are dealt with by distance and repression, the offspring are likely to have behavior disorders--which is just what is sounds like--someone exhibiting inappropriate behaviors.

Of course, these outcomes are definitely the exception, and not the norm, and there are other options on the Beavers Model for families who are good at communicating, have intimacy in their families, and share warmth and respect with each other.  These families who function well have not doomed their offspring because the choose to look for satisfying relationships inside vs. outside the family or vice versa.  These are just the extremes, but it fascinates me the we can predict child behaviors based on extreme family styles.  


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