A conceptual model of psychosomatic illness in children. Family organization and family therapy

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1975 Aug;32(8):1031-8. doi: 10.1001/archpsyc.1975.01760260095008.


Linear and open systems (multiple feedback) models of psychosomatic illness in children are contrasted in terms of their implications for cause and treatment. An open systems family model is presented that describes three necessary (but not independently sufficient) conditions for the development and maintenance of severe psychosomatic problems in children: (1) a certain type of family organization that encourages somatization; (2) involvement of the child in parental conflict; and (3) physiological vulnerability. Predisposition for psychosomatic illness, symptom choice, and maintenance are discussed within this conceptual framework. We report on family therapy strategies based on this model and the results of family treatment with 48 cases of "brittle" diabetes, psychosomatic asthma, and anorexia nervosa.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anorexia Nervosa / therapy
  • Asthma / therapy
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Conflict, Psychological
  • Diabetic Ketoacidosis / therapy
  • Family Therapy*
  • Family*
  • Feedback
  • Female
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Models, Psychological*
  • Parent-Child Relations
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / etiology
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / therapy*
  • Reinforcement, Psychology
  • Self Concept