A Systemic Look At the Self: The Relationship Between Family Organization, Interpersonal Attachment and Identity

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Daniel L. Randolph

Advisor Department



The emergence of systems theories has challenged the individualistic perspective that psychological difficulties are solely intrapersonal in nature. These theories have even challenged modern psychodynamic theories to incorporate the influence of environmental factors on the development of intrapersonal processes. Systemic theories have even proposed that the individual is psychologically a systemic organization of different parts. This theory also proposes that the psychological functionality of an individual depends on the functionality of his or her systemic organization of the different psychological parts of himself or herself. Systemic organization of an individual's family of origin has been hypothesized to serve as a template for systemic organization of the parts of one's self. The purpose of this study is to examine the relationship between factors of family functioning, interpersonal attachment and identity as measured by family role behavior. One hundred fourteen undergraduate students in a southern state university were assessed for functionality of family of origin using the Family Functioning Scale, interpersonal attachment using the Bell Object-Relations Inventory, and identity using the Children's Roles Inventory. A significant relationship was predicted. Scores were also compared for gender differences. Significant differences were, again, expected. A canonical correlation revealed a significant relationship between family role behavior, interpersonal attachment and family functioning. One significant factor was observed ($R\sp2 = .81,\ \chi\sp2$ (N = 114) = 134.07, df = 40, $p < .0001).$ Four separate multiple linear regression equations were then employed to determine the predictive ability of factors of family functioning and interpersonal attachment on each family role (hero, scapegoat, mascot and lost child). All four equations were found to be significant ($p < .01).$ MANOVA revealed no significant differences between gender on any scores. Results and implications are discussed.