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Flashcards in Bowen - Transgenerational Theory Deck (48)
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What do Bowens 8 generational concepts address?

emotional processes taking place in the nuclear / extended families and across generations & in society


Bowens 8 concepts are tied together by the underlying premise that chronic anxiety is omnipresent in life / is inevitable part of nature

TRUE: chronic anxiety is a biological phenomenon that humans have in common with all life forms


natural systems perspective - past generations transmit chronic anxiety - and is related to the experiences of family members as they struggle to balance togetherness + individual self-differentiation



What are the 8 conepts of bowen

1. differentiation of self


differentiation of self?

extent of persons ability to distinguish between intellectual process + feelings process: demonstrated by ability to think and follow own values in the face of anxiety without behavior being driven by emotional cues of others

1. close intimacy w/ others + maintain separate sense of self (not caught up in family issues)

2. distinguish between thoughts & feelings
(emotional regulation + separate emotions from family - express own feelings not those of others)

3. behave based on own values
(not driven by emotions of others)


the degree to which one can __________ = key to the differentiation experience?

the degree to which one can SEPARATE EMOTIONALLY FROM PARENTS IN GROWING UP = key to the differentiation experience?


one way to demonstrate degree of differentiation is?

speaking in "i" statements = verbalizes separation from others


individuals with the greatest fusion between their thoughts and feelings = function poorly


at the mercy of automatic emotional reactions
can't cope with anxiety
can't separate self from others = merge easily with emotions of family
few firmly held beliefs of their own = stuck "emotionally" throughout their life


undifferentiated family ego mass

family emotionally stuck together - conglomerate emotional oneness exists = degree that any member is involved in family from moment to moment

emotional fusion into a common self with family


concept of "fusion-differentiation" / "undifferentiated family ego mass" emphasize transgeneration theory view that.....?

concept of "fusion-differentiation" / "undifferentiated family ego mass" emphasize transgeneration theory view that = MATURITY & SELF-ACTUALIZATION DEMAND INDIVIDUALS TO BECOME FREE OF UNRESOLVED EMOTIONAL ATTACHMENT TO FAMILY OF ORIGIN


according to bowens concept of fusion-differentiation: no one ever achieves complete emotional separation from the family of origin


due to 2 counterbalance life forces innate all humans :
ability to develop into emotionaly separate person
emotional connection to family


greater level of undifferentation (higher fusion) = greater levels of emotional fushion with family



attempt to achieve stability + relieve anxiety in highly fused, emotionally intense 2-person system by bringing in 3rd person

TRIANGULATION : the idea that internal/external stress is reduced by bringing in a third vulnerable person



basic building block in a family's emotional or relational system


______ = smallest stable relationship system

TRIANGLE = smallest stable relationship system


families rely on triangles to:

relieve discomfort + maintain optimum levels of closeness / separation while permitting them the greatest freedom from anxiety


3rd person brought into a triangle =

least well-differentiated person + often "identified patient"


4 outcomes of triangles:

1. stable 2 system = unstable by addition of 3rd
2. stable 2 system = unstable by removal of 3rd
3. unstable 2 system = stabilized by adding 3rd
4. unstable 2 system = stable by removing 3rd


Provide an example:
stable 2 person system becomes unstable by adding 3rd person

birth of a child brings marital conflict


Provide an example:
stable 2 person system becomes unstable by removing a 3rd person

child leaves home and is no longer mediator of parents conflict


Provide an example:
unstable 2 person system becomes stable by adding 3rd person

child is born and reduces marital conflict


Provide an example:
unstable 2 person system becomes stable by removal of 3rd person

marital conflict is reduced by uninvolving mother in law


traingles are key mechanism in families where patterns of relating to one another are passed through generations



3rd person can detriangulate by:

not taking sides while maintaing emotional connection to both people

Ex. siblings fight - mother reamins positive towards both children & equally close to both = diminish emotional intensity between siblings


differentiation of self

2 distinct and closely interrelated processes.
1. occurs within the individual and refers to the individual’s capacity to be aware of the difference between their intellectually determined functioning and their emotionally determined functioning.
2. the way the individual functions in relationship and his/her ability to maintain emotional autonomy in a relationship system.

A gain in the differentiation of self within one’s family is brought about by increase of knowledge of one’s multigenerational family system as informed by the concepts of the theory. This increase in multigenerational knowledge assists person to form a base of understanding from which to:
make mindful choices to act thoughtfully (objectively), utilizing their intellectually determined functioning,
reactively (subjectively), utilizing their emotionally determined functioning, to the emotional forces in his day-to-day experience.


Nuclear (or Core) Family Emotional Process:

observable mechanisms and patterns of emotional functioning in a family, in a single generation, as it responds to the activity of its members and impacting events.

These processes are the systems reposne to anxiety and the systems attempt to achieve equilibrium or balance.
These processes are:
marital conflict,
dysfunction of a spouse,
and impairment of one or more children through the family projection process.
Emotional distancing, is a feature of all relationships, is intertwined with all the patterns of emotional functioning in a nuclear family.

The nuclear family emotional process (the observable mechanisms and patterns of emotional functioning) of the current generation typically is a replica of past generations and will be repeated in the generations to follow.


Marriage = foundation for relationships in nuclear family



The triangle, a three-person emotional configuration, is the basic building block of a stable emotional system and describes its dynamic movement toward gaining equilibrium



Poorly differentiated parents select most fusion-prone child to focus their attention on (regardless of birth order) transfer low level of differentiation onto child



Method of stabilizing relationship around “disturbed child” = continue family triangle

family projection process