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Vocabulary Words: Family Evaluation by Bowen & Kerr


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a three-person relationship system; building "molecule" of larger emotional systems, the smallest stable relationship system.
a two-person relationship system; unstable, tolerates little tension before involving a third person.
Interlocking Triangle
When triangle tension is too high, it spreads to other triangles.
Spreading Tension
Stabilizes system, but does not resolve
"Odd Man Out"
a third position in triangle, generates anxiety to move to insider position.
Describe triangle with moderate level of tension
one side in conflict and two sides in harmony
Describe scenario where triangle contributes to clinical problem.
Getting pushed from inside to outside position can trigger depression, phys. illness. Intense focus on child can cause rebellion.
Describe a well-differentiated self
Person recognizes his realistic dependence on others, can assess calmly under pressure.
Describe a poorly-differentiated self
Depends on acceptance of others, people-pleaser, or, a bully who opposes others
Describe "Group-think" Hint: groups vary according to level of self-diff.
The amount of pressure exerted by a group for conformity. Groups vary in amount of pressure exerted.
Describe Basic Self
reflection of how one functions in regard to others; rarely changes without extreme effort
Action based on thoughtful choice not emotional reactivity...who?
person with high level of self-differentiation
Relies heavily on approval from others or threatens others...who?
person with lower level of self-differentiation
Name four basic patterns Nuclear Family Emotional System.
Marital conflict, dysfunction in one spouse, impairment of one or more children, emotional distance
Family Projection Process
the way parents transmit their emotional problems to a child.
Describe relationship sensitivities (family projection process)
high need for attention, difficulty dealing w/expectations, blame-shifting, feeling or projecting over-responsibility, impulsivity,
1. Describe first step of family projection
a. parent focuses on child out of fear that something is wrong with the child,
2. Describe second step of family projection
b. parent interprets child's behavior as confirming the fear,
3. Describe third step of family projection
c. parent treats the child as if something is really wrong with the child.
Summarize these three steps.
Scanning, diagnosing, treating
Describe multi-generational transmission process
small levels of diff. between parents and offspring lead over many generations to marked diff. in succeeding generations.
How is a "self" created?
relationally and genetically transmitted information interact to shape an individual's "self."
Describe the above process in detail.
offspring innately respond to parents' moods, attitudes, and actions; children develop diff. of self similar to parents.
Describe Sibling "self" differences and their marriages.
One sibling higher, one sibling lower, than parents; one marriage more diff. the other less diff. than parents.
Describe the impact of the above on succeeding generation.
Third generation marriage more diff. than parents is the highest of the three (same for lowest).
Describe emotional cutoff
The degree to which people manage their emotional cutoff. Emotional distance to no communication.
Describe risks involved in emotional cutoff
risk making the new relationships too important; a vulnerability to pressuring or accomodating others
Describe unresolved emotional attachment to FOO.
1. person feels and responds like a child when home.
Same question...
3. person feels enraged that parents do not understand or approve of him or her
Describe cause of unresolved attachment to FOO
relates to the immaturity of both the parents and adult child. People typically blame self/others for problems.
Who was Walter Toman?
Believed sibling behavior was related to sibling position
Describe oldest sibling behavior.
Oldest gravitate to leadership positions
Describe youngest sibling behavior.
Youngest prefer to be followers.
Describe Toman's research on spouses.
Spouses sibling positions affect the chance of their divorcing.
Describe oldest anxious child.
may grow up to be markedly indecisive and highly reactive to expectations
Describe the term "functional oldest" child.
A chronologically younger child who develops more characteristics of oldest than the actual oldest child.
Describe societal emotional process.
Governing behaviors in a nonfamily group (work and social organization)
How do cultural forces impact how a society functions?
they are insufficent for explaining the ebb and flow in how well societies adapt to challenges that face them.
Why did Bowen predict that by the middle of 21st century, humans will live more in harmony with nature?
A loosening of standards makes it difficult for parents to draw the line...take the long-term view during conflict.
what is the key to influencing future children?
Work on self rather than increase the focus on them.
List some "multi-generational patterns of relationships"
Important to look for P. of R. like longevity, early deaths, alcoholism, high achievement, codependency, self-centerdness, etc.
Which is more functional: dyad or triangle, and why?
Triangle; operates like tag team. What Mom and Dad start, Kid and Dad finish on a regular basis.
True or False? Triangles can also be between people and objects like a TV or a pet.
Give example of spouses out of balance with regard to early sibling positions.
Dad has eight brothers. Mom is only child. Look for functional balances.
When someone does better than expected; higher level of differentiation from FOO
Describe complications of stressors on married couple bereft of relationship resources.
Demands on marriage are exacerbated without others to meet needs.
What is it call when the emotional stuff doesn't overwhelm your intellectual life?
Differentian...quote, "Clinton never came into anyone's life that he didn't destroy."
True or False? People usually marry people of the same maturity level as themselves.
How do you label people on genogram?
Square for males, circle for females, birthdate in upper left outside. Death date to the right of it.
How do you label people on a genogram?
See book for remainder (appendix)
Relationship characterizations
Close but conflicting: zigzag line between two lines.
Where are symbols found in Genogram book?
P. 192
Last words on relationship symbols.
Sex abuse, arrow connected by large zigzag line. Physical abuse same with shorter zigzag.
What's problem with short time to remarriage?
1. lack of processing old
2. already involved
3. death, men substitute
Why do chronology?
It gives patterns as to symptoms.
True or False? Bowen felt that the family is both simple and complex.
True. Simple (one step follows another), complex (large numbers of interelated variables on many levels)
Define Symbiosis p. 5 Bowen book.
intimate involvement of mother with child during child's early years.
Describe Bowen's work history.
Menninger Clinic 1946, NIMH 1954, Georgetown University 1959
Explain difference between family relationship system and family emotional system.
Relationship=description of what happened, emotional=explanation behind it
Describe family emotional system
The energy behind the described phenomena
Bowens Concepts are what?
Hint. p. 13
Diff. of self, triangles, nuclear family emotional process, multi-gen. trans. process, sibling position
Which two concepts were added later in the 1970's?
Emotional cutoff, societal emotional process.
Give the historical gist of systems thinking.
Process of nature rather than content of nature was focus.
Describe history of Systems Thinking.
1543 Copernicus' presents heliocentric model of solar system, turned us back to systems theory. p. 15
The physical, social and emotional functioning of family members is profoundly interdependent. So?
Changes in one reverberates to another. Allows clinicians to make tentative predictions.
True or False? What happens in one generaton will repeat itself in next.
This describes the multi-generational transmission process.
Why do clinicians explore patterns of functioning, relationship, and structure of genogram?
These continue to alternate from one generation to the next...the same issues and implicit family models.
What is the basic unit of an emotional system?
The triangle.
Fill in Blank. Family interactions and relationships tend to be highly _________ (3 things).
Reciprocol, patterned, repetitive.
What makes clinicians able to make tentative predictions about families from genogram?
Patterns that are reciprocol and repetitive.
Multi-generational process
patterns of functioning, relationship, and structure that alternate from one gen. to the next.
Vertical Axis p. 8-9. Describe. Multi-generational process
Bio. heritage and intricate programming of behaviors from temperment, congenital disabilities, genetics.
Horizontal Axis. p. 8
Family as it moves through life cycle.
Person's emotional, cognitive, interpersonal, phys. dev. over life span
More on vertical axis:
emotional triangling, family attitudes, taboos, social hierarchies, family beliefs, groups history-trauma.
More on horizontal axis:
changes and transitions of life cycle, community or lack of, social structures, sexism, racism, prejudices.
Complementarity or reciprocal balance. Describe.
Members of family fit together as functional whole, tend to complement or reciprocate others.
Explain how one member makes up for another to maintain balance.
Irresponsibility (lack) in one may be complemented by over responsibility (surplus)in another.
T or F? Predictions made on genogram are facts!
False. Offered as tentative hypothesis for further study.
when two people have conflict a third person is drawn in and forms a triangle.
Tracking critical events and changes in family functioning allow us to (p. 13):
Notice anniversary reactions, make systematic connections between coincidences, assess impact of trauma and understand in the light of social, political, economic context.
Tracking enables clinician to seek ways to do what?
Promote resilience based on past sources of strength and modify dysfunctional adaptive strategies.
Why do triangles represent positions rather than people?
Because they can be represented as husband, wife, TV, or a pet can be there.
When are previous tenants listed in genogram?
When the relationship is still an issue.
How are multiple marriages represented on genogram?
Man on left, woman on right=original marriage. To the left and right of them when they remarry.
Name the two types of families.
Nuclear or Blended
How does divorce situation impact the family?
Discipline becomes problem, less money, Grandparent interference, loss of custody, loss of birth family
When are more than one genograms required?
A child adopted at 5 or 7 would require two genograms: one for original family and another for blended one.
What's important to assess in a single parent family?
Whether they have a rich relationship network. Also check for live-in paramour.
Why assess three generation households?
Extra care involved when parents age. Parenting issues crop up. Cross-generational alliances can develop. Division of labor an issue.
What are the conflicts of blended families?
Custody, support, religious as well as loyalty conflicts. What are ramifications of non-family member living in home?
Birth Position. Say something about it.
Birth order shapes the way you approach things.
Say more on birth order.
Youngest charming, first born most responsible high achievers, only children adult oriented.
Which sibs have greatest emotional intensity?
Those closer in age. Wider age gap produces distance.
More on sibs.
Only children of only children grow up with sense of entitlement. Little experience sharing.
Define inverse of self-differentiation.
Chronic anxiety.
Define anxiety.
organism's reaction to threat, emotional reactivity, perceived threat underlies all E.R.
Define acute anxiety.
response to real threat, time-limited
Chronic anxiety
response to imagined threat, not time limited, exceeds person's capacity for healthy adaptation.
Define binding anxiety.
Trying to deal with anxiety without resolving its source.
How is binding anxiety generated?
Usually generated and sustained by people's reactions to stress in the balance of relationship system.
What is specific about poorly differentiated system.
Not able to restore equilibrium without chronic anxiety and symptoms that persist. Reactive vs. responsive
How does chronic anxiety correlate with diff. of self?
Level of chronic anxiety will inversely correlate with level of diff.
What is the key for relieving chronic anxiety in patients?
Help them reduce symptoms and organize their life better.
How does basic anxiety and level of diff. develop?
Develops over generations, diff. children have varies degrees of diff., over involved child worries more.
How do children react to parents levels of diff.?
If parents each have 50, one child has anxiety of 55 (over-involved) the other more objective (45).
Note: Less involved does not mean rejected. Over involved is rejected (continued)
(continued) neglected or over-indulged, less treated objectively so child distorts things. Doesn't know he is loveable or capable of being loved.
How do children marry based on their level of diff?
Over-involved child (55) marries a (55). Children end up as 50 and 60.
Same question.
Neglected child with anxiety (45) marries same. Children end up 50 and 40.
What is a family?
A series of interlocking triangles.
How are triangles observable according to Bowen theory?
They focus on function rather than speculation about motives.
What is the function of triangles?
They make possible, arrangements that allow for binding anxiety and increasing comfort and stability.
What do dyads do?
Their primary function is avoidance.
What is the difference between a relationship pattern and a physical entity?
A triangle is really a relationship pattern rather than a physical entity. Mom, Dad, daughter. Fight can be fought three different ways.
Triangles do not dissolve. Explain.
Triangles are sometimes less intense and less visible in times of greater calm.
Who were Gregory Bateson and Margaret Mead?
Researcher genius's , anthropologists and communicators.
How do triangles cross generations and repeat learned behaviors?
Mam and dad cutoff. dad and daughter close, mom and daughter conflicted. Dad dies, former daughter has cutoff with her husband and her daughter is close to husband.
Define normal.
Normal is someone who has not been evaluated.
Speculating about motives. Explain.
This takes you out of a systems perspective.
Triangles are the basic unit of what system?
They are basic units of the emotional system.
What other system influences family behavior.
Intellectual system.
Trangles account for what functioning in the human?
Emotional functioning.
Which positions are the most comfortable in a triangle?
The two closed positions.
In times of conflict, which position is most comfortable?
Outside position is most comfortable.
Name the key issue of triangles.
Another name for two joined triangles is?
Define De-triangling.
Being in emotional contact with two other sides of a triangle while remaining emotionally neutral.
How anxiety is intensified within a triangle.
By moving more people into one of the positions of the triangle.
T or F. Nations can take positions within a triangle.
Explain how twosome can be stabilized by third person.
Mom and Dad have disabled son. Care for him redirects them from marital problems.
Explain how twosome can be de-stabilized by third person.
Child grows up and is off to college. Marital problems take the forefront.
Define functioning positions of triangles.
Triangles that shift back and forth. Triangles that are rigid.
What happens if someone is always in the outside position of a triangle?
It serves to increase anxiety.
Though not always true, often there are three types of patterns in triangle. Name them.
Generator (person who stirs up trouble) amplifier (person who reacts dampener (person who calms)
Describe the goal of de-triangling.
To learn what the particular perspective is of both parties. Too much focus on outcome reduces outcome.
What is the goal of "walking in another's shoes?"
To understnad there is no place for blame. Stay connected in a genuine sort of way.
Define Effective Detriangling.
Note: p. 151
A principle for guiding one's efforts to communicate a neutral position in a triangle is to respond to someone's efforts to triangle by saying and doing things that push that person together with whom he is having a problem.
Why is the clinician not allowed to take sides?
Taking sides is not being real. Being real is responding to both with equal amount of grace.
What type of anxiety does de-triangling work for?
Mild to moderate anxiety.
What is the "imponderable mystery?"
How people are the way they are, only God truly knows.
Seeing to understand a couple from a position of grace does what?
Moves the dyad to greater resolution rather than binds their anxiety.
Explain how binding anxiety improves symptoms.
It does not improve symptoms.
T or F. De-triangling works in a paradoxical way.
Define Acute Symptoms
Short term disturbances in balance of system
Define Chronic symptoms.
Long-term symptoms with anxiety
Define anxiety driven processes.
They pressure people to think, feel, and act in specific ways.
How are symptoms reduced?
Based on a person's emotional reactivity. More autonomy, less symptoms.
Define togetherness or emotionally reactive types.
Someone who is upset to the point that someone comes to their rescue in knee-jerk fashion to calm them.
What type of change happens when one is rescued from anxiety?
A functional change to bind anxiety is not a basic change. Sometimes stirs up more.
How is anxiety sometimes exacerbated?
Drinking alcohol can calm things down and reduce immediate symptoms - a pseudo solution. Calms but does not resolve symptoms.
Describe improvement of 5 - 10 pts. in basic level of differentiation.
Reduces symptoms in a more lasting way in self and others. Less emotionally reactive and less apt to impair others. Don't feed symptoms. Motivates people to take responsibility for themselves. Remain in emotional contact with them.
Give an example of over-functioning.
Wife tries to disengage while still being driven crazy. No change in basic level of differentiation.
Describe genetic loading.
Many have genes predisposed for cancer, lung disease, bi-polar disorder. Other factors trigger.
What triggers disease according to systems theorists?
Factors that trigger lie in the balance of the biology, psychology, relationship system.
A good question for a clinician to ask when seeing patient for the first time?
"Why does this patient have this disease now?"
Another good question?
"Why is this person coming to counseling now?" Do not ask how long they have been depressed.
Who was Scheflin?
Schzophrenic philosophy theorist - from molecular to societal and beyond.
What is the "chicken vs. egg" argument between pharmacy companies and psychologists?
Biology causes serotonin deficiency vs. Depression causes drop in serotonin.
Why is it important to consider other forms of treatment?
When a therapeutic approach on one level fails, an approach on another level succeeds.
What is the cardinal rule in selecting treatment approaches?
Ignoring other levels of treatment can risk reinforcing the notion that it's the client's fault and perpetuates their problem.
Systemic Model represents a three-part framework for keeping the total picture in mind. What is that?
Physical, psychological, social.
Name the multiple levels of systems theory. Note: to deny one of these is to reinforce the client's pathology.
Molecular, biological, physiological, familial, societal, psychological, spiritual.
Give an analogy for a therapist who thinks of himself as a miracle worker.
A child with a squirt gun beside a raging forest fire.
What helps people who are sensitive to serotonin deficiency not break out?
Talk Therapy. This is an example that intervention at another level sometimes works.

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