FAST Concept

  Test dimensions   Quantitative evaluation
Theoretical basis
  Test materials   Levels of analysis
Underlying assumptions   Length of test   Qualitative evaluation


The FAST can be used in research and in clinical practice:
  • as an individual test (with respondents age 6 and over) and as a group test
  • for the analysis of family structures (perception and interaction)
  • for diagnosis of biopsychosocial problems
  • for the planning and evaluation of preventive and therapeutic interventions
  • in therapy training and clinical supervision
Theoretical basis
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The concept of the FAST is based on:
  • Structural family systems theory
  • Developmental family psychology
  • Psychopathology
Underlying assumptions
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In Western societies, nonclinical families display balanced structures (cohesive and moderately hierarchical) and have clear generational boundaries and a flexible organization

Test dimensions
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FAST dimensions include:
  • Cohesion and hierarchy in the family and its subsystems
  • Quality of generational boundaries
  • Flexibility of family structures
Test materials
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For the evaluator:

For the respondents:

  • Board (45 cm x 45 cm) with 81 squares (5 cm x 5 cm)
  • Schematic male and female figures (8 cm)
  • Cylindrical blocks of 3 different heights (1.5 cm, 3 cm, 4.5 cm)
Length of test
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Individual test: 5 to 10 minutes; group test: 10 to 30 minutes

Quantitative evaluation
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Cohesion is calculated based on distances between figures on the board. Figures positioned on directly adjacent squares score maximum cohesion while larger distances reflect less cohesive relations. Cross-generational coalition: A parent-child dyad is more cohesive than the parental dyad.
Hierarchy is calculated based on number and height of blocks used to elevate the figures. Same height of figures indicates egalitarian power structure. The greater the difference in height, the more hierarchical the relationship. Hierarchy reversal: The elevation of a child figure surpasses that of a parent figure.

Types of relational structures
Classification of family structures is based on a combination of cohesion and hierarchy. Both dimensions are scored as either high, medium or low. A balanced structure refers to relations with medium or high cohesion and medium hierarchy. The other family configurations (i.e., problematic relational structures) are called either labile-balanced or unbalanced.

Levels of analysis
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Perception of the family:
  • The structure of typical, ideal and conflict relations
  • Changes from typical to ideal or conflict representations (flexibility)
Differences in perception:
  • Comparison of individual representations by different family members
  • Comparison of individual representations with the joint representation
Qualitative evaluation
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Test behavior/Interaction:
  • Order in which figures are positioned
  • Changes made in the positions of the figures
  • Spontaneous remarks uttered while setting up representations
  • Representation of persons outside the family
  • Omission of family members
  • Observation of the family during group test (Systemic Performance Roles in Interaction, SPRINT)
Follow-up interview:
  • Exploration of subjective meaning of representations
  • Hypothetical questions about ideal family constructs (e.g., attempted changes to reach a particular goal)
  • Evaluation of conflict and/or problem-solving patterns
  • Exploration of differences between family members' individual representations and between their individual and joint representations