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Family Developmental

Stages of the Family Life Cycle

Early Stages – Forming and Nesting

I. Coupling

Family Stage marker:   The family begins at the establishment of a common household by two people; this may or may not include marriage.

Family Task: Individual independence to couple/dyadic interdependence.

II. Becoming Three – and more

Family Stage marker: The second phase in family life is initiated by the arrival and subsequent inclusion/incorporation of the first child/dependent member.

Family Task: Interdependence to incorporation of dependence.

Middle Stages – Family Separating Process

III. Entrances 

Family stage marker: The third phase in signaled by the exit of the first child/dependent member from the intrafamily world to the larger world.  This occurs at the point of entrance into school or other extrafamilial environment.

Family task: Dependence to facilitation of beginning separations – partial independence.

IV. Expansion

Family Stage Marker:  This phase is marked by the entrance of the last child/dependent member of the family into the community.

Family task: Support of facilitation of continuing separations – independence.

V. Exits

Family Stage Marker: This phase starts with the first complete exit of a dependent member from the family.  This is achieved by the establishment of an independent household which may include marriage or another form of independent household which may include marriage or another form of independent household entity.

Family Task: Partial separations to first complete independence.

Late Stages: Finishing

VI. Becoming smaller/extended

Family Stage marker: Ultimately the moment comes for the exit of the last child/dependent member from the family.

Family Task: Continuing expansion of independence.

VII. Endings 

Family Stage markers: The final years start with the death of one spouse/partner and continue up to the death of the other partner.

Family Task:  Facilitation of family mourning. Working through final separations.

*Revised from Zibach (1968; 1979; 1982; 1986) as found in Lee Combrink-Gaham, M.D. (1989) Children in Family Contexts. Guildford Press.