Hi June – sorry for all the taskstream issues, I know this has been a stuggle. Hopefully when the courseroom system is changed, it will be an easier process.
I really like the “neatness” and details that you put in the genogram. Bowen would also note symbols and such for things like “enmeshed relationships” “cut off relationships” etc.
I was able to see your thinking about Bowen in this paper and feel that you were able to pull in examples within your own family to highlight the concepts. I felt the “problem” that you brought into the paper was a really good example of how Bowen would view an “unhealthy” family and what he might be concerned with focusing on in therapy.
There were a couple concepts that I wasn’t really clear if your example fit the concept. I made a few notes in the margins to clarify the concept.
Thanks, let me know if you have any questions. ~Valerie Glass 8/26/16
Bowen Family Systems Theory
Bowen family Systems theory is an approach that perceives the family as an emotional unit and bases its description of complex interactions to the systems thinking ******(CITE). The theory states that the members of a family are emotionally connected. The family influences the feelings, thoughts and actions of its members. One member of the family would need to solicit attention, approval or support from another member hence the interdependency within the system. When one family member’s functioning changes, it affects the functioning of the rest of the members. The interdependency between members promotes cooperation and cohesiveness (Kerr, 2016).
My Family Genogram
Figure 1: My family Genogram
From the genogram, it is evident that the family is of four generations. The family starts from the grandparents. My paternal grandparents gave birth to my dad, and his five siblings (my two uncles, twin aunts, and the younger aunt). My father is deceased. We are three siblings and three half-siblings. My mother has dementia. I am a Native American with a touch of German. We are a very dysfunctional family. My mom did two jobs to raise us. I was raped at a young age and had my daughter at 13. My mother put me out, and I am now married to a 57-year-old man of compromise. For 33 years we have been married. We have six children; my daughter, three biological children (two daughters and one son) and two adoptive boys (Butler, 2008).
How Diversity Issues Affect the Family Dynamics
A family consists of members with diverse traits including needs, perspectives, obligation, and resources. These various characteristics change over time and also the family dynamics. The diversity in the family structure plus the emergence of a new family and household patterns is a real challenge in implementing social policy (Brown, 2014). The ever changing dynamics of family life for example; same-sex and single-parent families face various forms of discrimination and social exclusions quite often. The universality of a family emanates from its diverse functions of producing children, supporting its members and provision of social sanction outlet for sexual activities. Today there is no sanction for relations in the society, for instance, same-sex relationships. All these diversities including the concepts of sexuality, marriage, and parenting puts the family in quite a dynamic context whose definition is quite variable (WPFC, 2016).
Description of Household Using Bowen Approach
A triangle is three individual relationship system. It is the smallest stable relationship system which makes up a larger emotional system (Kerr, 2016 ). One is always the outsider at any given instance and whenever tension builds between two insiders it is the outsider that feels the pinch. For example, when my husband and I received our first child, I spent too much time with the child and did not spend much time with the spouse. The child was, therefore, the outsider because the tension was between the parents. ******If the whole paragraph is from the same source, you would cite after the first sentence in the paragraph. ( I took it out already.)
Differentiation of Self
According to (Kerr, (2016) people’s feelings, thinking, and actions are influenced extensively by families and social groups. The level of differentiation of self is a reflection of the difference between groups and individuals. People with poor differentiation of “self” depend on other’s acceptance and approval. Society has diverse levels of differentiation of self. The case of my husband and I explains a scenario of a moderately differentiated unit. The high levels of differentiation including my husband’s concentration on work and his and my constant care of the baby create a close contact within the triangle (Kerr, 2016).*****Tell me a bit more here, I am not clear about your example of differentiation. Undifferentiatted people tend to be overly emotionally connected to other member’s emotional challenges.
Nuclear Family Emotional System
This approach describes four primary relationship patterns the controls the problems experienced in families. The model includes marital conflict, dysfunction in one spouse, emotional distance and impairment of children. This approach is evident in my family, which is broken. There was constant conflict, and no one wanted to yield to pressure. It even affected our performance in school (Kerr, 2016).
Family Projection Process
This process gives a description of how parents transmit their emotional problems to a child. The problems can affect the functioning of the children in a negative way and increase vulnerability to symptoms. For example, my constant attention made the daughter addicted to me that whenever I was away, the child could not stand it. The child would cry until she becomes sick (Kerr, 2016).
Multigenerational Transmission Process
This process explains how minor differences between parents can lead to passage of the same differences could be passed to their children and the generation to come. For instance the case of my dad and mom. We lived in such a dysfunctional family. Their constant fights in the house were sending conflicting messages to us. We then grew up with all the ugly scenes in our memory knowing nothing but conflict and unsettled atmosphere. This scenario will be passed to our generations to come (Kerr, 2016).
This concept describes the management of unresolved emotional issues by those people who have severed contact with their family members. For them, it is a great way of reducing the pressure and tension from within the family. For example, the case between my mother and I. When she put me out with my pregnancy to reduce the tension and pressure between us. I survived at a separate place of residence than my family (Kerr, 2016).*****_Bowen would say that emotional cutoff is “unhealthy” – he would state that the best family form is one where the members remain connected yet allow each other to live and become differentiated.
This approach highlights the similarity in some characteristics of children who have grown as same siblings. Older children tend to take up leadership positions while younger ones tend to be followers. For example, some of my cousins and I grew up sharing so many things in common (Gehart, 2014 ). *******-Expand a bit more. I am not sure what sibiling position has to do with cousins? I think of thinkgs like – older siblings taking on more responsibility.
Societal Emotional Process
This approach gives a description on how emotional systems controls behavior at the societal level leading to both regressive and progressive periods in the society. It majorly focuses on how the parents treat the children and what they input into their mind that can either make them or break them. What our parents made us believe was that marriage should be so dysfunctional. We grew up knowing no peace (Gehart, 2014). ******This concept is really connected to the larger society. For example, someone growing up in NYC when 9/11 happened would experience a different level of stress because of the external stress in their environment.
Bowen Family Therapy as a System Based Approach
One principle of a system based approach that is related to Bowen theory is that the bigger picture of one’s relationships and life influences the symptoms (Gehart, 2014). Clients are also advised to have self-awareness when reacting to others. This therapy holds that the current social and cultural forces shape ourself and family values plus our thoughts on what is healthy and normal. It also shapes our expectation on how the world works. The treatment entails restructuring the problem to be a multigenerational one whose causes are factors beyond the individual. It also involves anxiety and emotional breakdown that helps the family to do a reflection and conduct civil actions. The therapist advises the couple to learn to manage stress. Two examples that show the aspect of systems based approach is the use of family social ties by the construction of a genogram and use of stories or imaginary family with the same problem as the household under therapy to help solve the problem.
Solving a Problem in the Family Using Bowen Approach
One example of approach would involve solving the case of my mother and me when she put me out at a young age using a family therapy with one person. The therapy would only focus on differentiating me from the family. It will enable me stop seeing my Mother by her roles and start having the perception that she is just a person with her flaws, strengths, and needs. The therapy helps me to recognize the significance of triangulation since my child was also involved. The treatment will enable take up ownership and make changes either in my life or the family. The genogram would be of significance to this treatment (Brown, 2014).
Bowen family systems theory is a vital element in analyzing family dynamics. The procedure involved is an effective way of solving family problems like conflicts using a system based approach. The genogram helps one efficiently to examine close family ties from one generation to the other and is essential in determining the principal causes of dysfunctionality passed on to children by their parents. As seen from the discussions, constant conflicts within the family impact the children negatively as they grow up, and they might also adopt the same lifestyle. More research should be carried out in the field of family therapy to come up with more of such or help address the weakness that might make the approaches less effective.
Brown, J. (2014, January). Bowen family systems theory and practice: Illustration and critipue. Retrieved from The Family Systems Institute Website: http://www.thefsi.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Bowen-Family-Systems-Theory-and-Practice_Illustration-and-Critique.pdf
Butler, J. F. (2008). The family diagram and genogram: Comparisons and Contrasts. Retrieved from North Central University Website: http://proxy1.ncu.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=34503500&site=ehost-live
Gehart, D. R. (2014). Mastering competencies in family therapy: A practical approach to theroy and clinical case documentation. New York: Cengage Learning .
Kerr, M. E. (2016). Theory. Retrieved from The Bowen Center Organization Website: http://www.thebowencenter.org/theory/
WPFC. (2016). Bowen Family Systems Theory. Retrieved from The Western Pennsylvania Family Center Website: http://wpfc.net/bowen-family-systems-theory/