Essay on Understanding Depression: Family Systems Theory

Essay on Understanding Depression: Family Systems Theory

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Depression is classified as a mood disorder by the DSM-IV (1994) and is defined as a mental illness characterized by sadness, general apathy, a loss of self-esteem, feelings of guilt, and, at times, suicidal tendencies (Lexicon, n.d). Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses that individuals receive treatment for today. In any six-month period, 9.4 million Americans, and 340 million people in the world, suffer from this disease. One in four women and one in 10 men will develop depression during their lifetime (An Overview of Depression, n.d). Although the DSM-IV has defined depression, its etiology, contributing factors, and interventions differ among the schools of thought in psychology. One such example is the different stances taken by those following the family systems theoretical perspective and those siding with cognitive-behavioral theory.


Description and Definition of Depression
The underlying theme of the article by Crethar, Snow and Carlson (2004) stems from the assumptions of family systems theory (FST). There are several points regarding etiology and interventions for the treatment of childhood and adolescent depression made, which are delineated by its concepts. Based on the perspective of FST, family communications and their distortions are speculated to play an etiological role in severe psychiatric disorders, especially depression (Slesnick & Waldron, 1997). It is seen as symptomatic of the dysfunctions of a family’s interactions which commonly affect their children (Crethar et al., 2004). The idea, that the occurrences within a familial context affect children within that system, stems from the idea of interdependence in FST, in which each member is being affected by and is affecting...


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Sanders, M. R., Cash, R., Dadds, M. R., & Johnson, B.M. (1992). Childhood Depression and Conduct Disorder: I. Behavioral, Affective, and Cognitive Aspects of Family Problem-Solving Interactions. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 101(3), 495-504.

Slesnick, N. & Waldron, H. B. (1997). Interpersonal Problem-Solving Interactions of Depressed Adolescents and Their Parents. Journal of Family Psychology, 11(2), 234-245.

Westbrook, D., Kirk, J. (2004). The Clinical Effectiveness of Cognitive Behavior Therapy: Outcome for Large Sample of Adults Treated in Routine Practice. Behavior Research and Therapy, 43, 1243-1261.

Zastrow, C. & Kirst-Ashman, K.K. (2001). Understanding Human Behavior and the Social Environment. In L. Gebo (Ed.), Theoretical Perspectives on Human Behavior and the Social Environment (p. 1-48). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning.



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