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  • Writer's pictureLeticia Salazar

Three types of family boundaries that shapes our personality

Updated: Dec 31, 2020

Boundaries are like invisible lines that separates ourselves from others. It helps draw our limits and let others know what we can tolerate and what is not negotiable. Without boundaries, we are destined to be taken advantage of by others, lose our identity trying to please people, and our needs will be neglected. Creating healthy boundaries is the foundation of healthy relationships with our families, friends, co-workers and people in general. Most family problems and conflicts come from having poor and weak boundaries.

According to Minuchin, a Family Therapist who developed Structural Family Therapy there are 3 types of boundaries:

1. Excessively rigid or inflexible boundaries. This boundary leads to resistant barriers between family members. For example, when a parent is unwilling to enter into the child’s world this child might maintain his autonomy, but comes as the price of feeling isolated from others and unsupported. Rigid boundaries occur when family members are isolated, or disengaged, from one another. Parents who have rigid boundaries use authoritarian parenting styles that eventually leads to distance and isolation. These parents attempt to protect their children by controlling them too much, making it difficult for these children to learn from mistakes and experience natural consequences.

2. Diffused /Enmeshed Boundaries are excessively blurry and unclear. These boundaries are found in overly involved families. In this case, parents are too accessible and contact with their children takes the form of invasion of privacy. Also, children in these types of families run the risk of becoming overly involved with their parents and fail to develop independent thinking. Enmeshed boundaries refer to an extreme form of proximity and intensity in family interactions. In this case, family members are overly involved in each other’s lives. Children may act like parents and parental control may be ineffective. In some cases, the family's lack of independence makes separation from the family an act of betrayal.

3. Clearly defined boundaries within a family help maintain separateness and at the same time emphasize belonging to the overall family system. With a clearly defined boundary, the independence of members is not sacrificed, but at the same time the boundaries remain flexible enough so that care, support and involvement are available as needed. Michuchin believed that families must work with appropriate boundaries in order to maintain healthy relationships.

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