A family subsystem refers to a form of grouping in which family members are distinguished according to roles, responsibilities, age or relationship. A family subsystem is usually formed in order to ensure everyone in the family knows their role and does not interfere with other members of the family.
A good example of a family subsystem is one in which members are categorized in groups that include marital, parental and sibling units. This means that a person belonging to the sibling subsection cannot meddle in the affairs of those in the marital section. When meddling takes place, the family is said to be experiencing problems.
A subsystem also helps in regulating information that comes externally or internally. For example, it is the duty of the people within the parental section to limit or regulate the information that people in the sibling section receive. Parents should ensure their children who are basically members of the sibling section do not have access to information that is deemed graphic or age inappropriate.
Such systems are especially used in families that are experiencing difficulties that may involve teenage rebellion, substance abuse and other social problems. Subsystems help each family in defining member responsibilities, boundaries and relationships.