General systems theory (GST), also known simply as systems theory, is a theoretical framework that seeks to explain the behavior of complex organized systems, from missile guidance computers to families. As early as the 1930s, social scientists began identifying and applying systems principles to fields such as anatomy and physiology, anthropology, communication, neurophysiology, philosophy, physics, psychology, sociology, and speech.

General systems theory stemmed from the mechanistic cause and effect models of physics and mathematics. These methodologies were viewed by most other scientific disciplines as being something for which to strive. GST offered a departure from the limitations presented by such models. Psychiatrists began viewing families as systems and led the way toward viewing dysfunctional family dynamics as a problem of the family and not the identified ...

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