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The concept of hierarchy has a threefold meaning in family therapy. First, it describes the function of power and its structure in families. To this aspect of hierarchy belongs the differentiation of roles for parents and children as well as of boundaries between generations (generational boundaries). Second, it refers to the organization of logical types, or logical hierarchies, in which a lower order of logical types is an element within a higher order. Third, there is a hierarchy of increasingly inclusive system levels. In this sense, an individual family member is a system that is logically subordinate to the system "community," and the community to the system "society" (Engel, 1977, 1980; Hoffman, 1981, pp. 54-56).

Definition extracted with permission from Simon, Fritz, et al, Family Process, Inc.: Language of Family Therapy: A Systemic Vocabulary and Source Book (Family Process Press Series)