Family boundary ambiguity is increasingly used in family research to describe and predict the effects of family membership loss and change over time. Boundary ambiguity is defined as the family not knowing who is in and who is out of the system. The family may perceive a physically absent member as psychologically present or may perceive a physically present member as psychologically absent (Figure 1). In either case, the family boundary is ambiguous.Based on clinical observation and early research, the authors of this publication believe there is often an overtly or covertly agreed-on family perception of who is in and who is out of the family. However, sometimes individual members will perceive family membership and boundaries differently.

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