A Bowen Approach Primer

The Bowen Approach

The Bowen approach provides powerful tools to help understand what is happening in a family system. Here are the eight Bowen concepts (and you can check out the Bowen Center for more information).

The Eight Bowen Concepts

  1. Triangles. Triangles are three-person systems. Someone is always uncomfortable in a triangle and pushing for change.
  2. Differentiation of Self. People with a poorly differentiated “self” depend so heavily on the acceptance and approval of others that either they quickly adjust what they think, say, and do to please others or they dogmatically proclaim what others should be like and pressure them to conform.
  3. Nuclear family emotional process.The four basic relationship patterns that govern where problems develop in a family.
  4. Family projection process. How parents transmit their emotional problems to a child.
  5. Multigenerational transmission process. How small differences in the levels of differentiation between parents and their offspring lead over many generations to marked differences in differentiation among the members of a multigenerational family.
  6. Emotional cutoff. How people manage their unresolved emotional issues with parents, siblings, and other family members by reducing or totally cutting off emotional contact with them.
  7. Sibling Position. How people who grow up in the same sibling position predictably have important common characteristics.
  8. Societal Emotional Process. How the emotional system governs behavior on the level of society, promoting both progressive and regressive periods in that society.