Multigenerational Transmission Process
Bowen theory is one of human behavior. The theory views family as an emotional unit, and uses systems theory to describe interactions within the family. Bowen believed that humans are dependent and reactive to others. Family members may feel distant or disconnected from each other; this is not a fact, but merely a feeling. Family members profoundly affect each other’s feelings, actions, and thoughts, no matter how distant they may be feeling ("Bowen Center," n.d.). Bowen describes the family as a multigenerational network of relationships ("Bowen Center," n.d.). The multigenerational process describes how differences in levels of differentiation between parents and their children lead to marked differences in differentiation in a multigenerational family ("Bowen Center," n.d.).
People desire attention, support, and approval from others, and react to other’s expectations and stressors. Each family has its own degree of interdependence. If one member exhibits a change in functioning, another member will follow with reciprocal changes. A family’s interdependence evolves to promote cohesion to take care of, and protect family members. Tensions can affect this process leading to problems within the family. When one member is anxious, the anxiety may spread to others in the family and escalate, leaving the family members overwhelmed or isolative.
Differentiation of Self
Bowen’s theory also describes a person’s ability to think and reflect, rather than respond emotionally, as differentiation of self (Nichols, 2010). Differentiation is the process of a person freeing himself from the family process to define himself. This means being able to be emotionally connected with family members, but also being able to have values and opinions that differ from theirs.
The less developed a person’s self, the more he is able to be controlled. The more impact others have on his functioning, the more he tries to control others. Family relationships during childhood are a big factor when considering the person’s emotionality. The undifferentiated person is driven by reactivity to others around them, while the differentiated person is able to act in a calm, flexible manner, without responding to anxiety. Undifferentiated people are very emotional and respond to the stimuli around them.
Bowen was aware of how most relationships are shadowed by a friend or relative. A three-person relationship system is considered a triangle. When two individuals are having problems and are unable to resolve a conflict, they may seek advice from a friend or family member, bringing this person into their relationship. This relationship is considered a triangle. Undifferentiated people are more likely to triangulate others and be triangulated. Differentiated people cope with life stressors and are less likely to triangulate or be triangulated.
A triangle can tolerate more tension than a two-person system...