This paper reports an exploratory discovery-oriented study aimed at inspecting change processes and dynamics in families referred by the Courts and Child Protection Services for family assessment in the Integrated Family Assessment and Intervention Model (IFAIM; Melo & Alarcão, 2011, 2013) due to child neglect. The families received support for change during an assessment aimed at facilitating and exploring their potential for change. The parents reported, in quantitative diaries, their family’s experiences and changes inside and outside the sessions. We coded the data with a qualitative coding-scheme emergent from a preliminary qualitative exploration based on grounded theory methods and sensitizing concepts from Complexity Science and Dynamic Systems Theories. Core categories of Trajectories of States, Trajectories of Coordination and Influence and Other Coordination Effects emerged as relevant indicators to understand the families’ potential for change, describing basic dynamic change processes and contributing to understand therapeutic outcomes. We discuss the implications of the results and directions for future studies.


Family Change Processes, Trajectories of Change, Potential for Family Change, Dynamic Systems, Child Protection

Author Bio(s)

Ana Teixeira de Melo is a psychologist and a post-doctoral research fellow at the Center for Social Studies of the University of Coimbra and the Faculty of Psychology and Education Sciences of the University of Coimbra. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: anamelopsi@gmail.com.

Madalena Alarcão is a psychologist and family therapist. She is Associate Professor at the Faculty of Psychology and Education Sciences of the University of Coimbra, and a researcher at the Center for Social Studies of the University of Coimbra. She is a supervisor member of the Portuguese Society of Family Therapy.


This work was supported by a post-doctoral scholarship (SFRH/BPD/77781/2011) attributed to the first author by the Foundation of Science and Technology. The first author thanks all the teams involved in this study.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.





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