Bowen\'s Family Systems Framework

The purpose of this paper is to explain using Bowen\'s family systems framework, how
an individual\'s level of differentiation and anxiety influence family relationships and
strengths. Bowen\'s family systems theory addresses how patterns of interaction in the
family of origin influence a couple\'s interaction in the next generation with their
children. Bowen describes the differences in family functioning, by the degree of anxiety
or the degree of differentiation within the family. Bowen\'s definition of differentiation
of self as a persons ability to differentiate intellectual functioning ( thinking ), from
feelings. The level of differentiation of self is determined in the family of origin. When
an individual has an increased level of differentiation, he has a clear sense of his own
identity. A person\'s intellectual functioning helps behavior to be rational, less
impulsive, more independent and autonomous. These individuals have good problem
solving techniques, and are less influenced by others. As differentiation of self increases,
levels of anxiety decrease. As anxiety goes up, differentiation goes down. A child\'s
differentiation of self develops around an emotional system. With a high level of
anxiety, functioning is impulsive, rather than rational. Individuals with a low level of
differentiation, develop dependent and emotionally fused relationships. These
individuals are more dependent on others. Their sense of self is clouded, and they don\'t
develop a clear identity. Their feelings and thoughts are fused, and they express a
pseudoself rather than their true opinions.
Families whose members have increased levels of differentiation and decreased
levels of anxiety, they will be rational and cognitive in their ways of relating to other
family members, and more effective with problem solving skills. They will try to clearly
communicate their views or beliefs. They will have healthier relationships. An
individual with an increased level of differentiated self , will allow their child to be their
own person, and express himself openly. This leads to a well adjusted independent
Family Systems 3

adolescent, with flexible problem solving skills, and an increased level of goal
orientation.
Families with decreased levels of differentiation and increased anxiety with in the
family system these members are driven more by their emotional self. They are
dominated by the feelings of others. Individuals with decreased levels of differentiated
self are dependent on others in relationships. For example, a parent who "babies" a
child, and doesn\'t foster his independence, blocks that child\'s ability to pursue his own
interests and achievements. It\'s a less healthy relationship. The goal in treatment for the
family, is to help them relate on cognitive levels, and stop dysfunctional, repetitive
patterns of family relations.

Category: Science