The late psychiatrist, Dr. Murray Bowen, developed his thinking about human families and the problems they experience into the theory we now know as Bowen family systems theory. Bowen theory is grounded in the observation that the human family, like all of nature, is a living system. This means that individual members and the group as a whole influence one another’s functioning in many complex ways. The development of each member as a ‘person’, their resulting health and happiness and the quality of connection with one another in the family unit are impacted by this interdependence, for better and for worse.
A second core observation is that individuals and families as a whole vary greatly in their ability to develop in ways that contribute to both the betterment of themselves, their families and the betterment of the society they live in. There are many factors that impact an individual’s and a family’s ability to act in the best interest of oneself, one’s family and one’s society, all at the same time. The level of emotional/cognitive integration in our brain, the level of chronic anxiety we carry and sustain, the degree of cut-off we have from important others are all factors that influence our ability to think, feel and act in ways conducive to an optimal outcome for ourselves and to our families and communities.
The concepts of Bowen theory listed below develop these mutually influencing variables in more detail.