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Family of Origin Project

An understanding of family relationships and the worth of the ties between generations play a crucial role in personal development. The family turns out to be a powerful platform for an individual to identify attitudes, determine beliefs, create habits, and enhance opportunities. As soon as a person demonstrates some emotional symptoms and characteristics, they can be easily applied to the entire family. In the middle of the 1900s, Murray Bowen elaborated on family systems theory about human behaviors to view the family as one emotional unit and use different systems to analyze human interactions.

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This theory served as a solid foundation for the development of multigenerational family therapy (MFT), the goal of which is to identify family dysfunction through the prism of generational patterns (Neukrug, 2015). MFT is a model that includes the facts about the family but not just the members’ thoughts or beliefs. There are eight main concepts in Bowen’s MFT to explain family development and functions within different contexts, and this paper aims at discussing the differentiation of self and nuclear family emotional process.

Understanding of Bowen’s MFT

Human behaviors can be examined within different systems, including a family or another community. A group of people is united as one particular emotional unit and develops their interactions, relying on their experiences, knowledge, and generation examples. Despite the intention of modern young people to demonstrate their individuality, the Bowenian approach provides an opportunity to strengthen family ties and underline the worth of a common family emotional system. According to Neukrug (2015), MFT should be considered as a theoretical rather than an application background for psychologists.

As soon as the users of Bowen’s theory are able to categorize events from the past and present, they can predict future changes and actions and gain control, avoiding or solving serious problems. The essence of MFT is not only to recognize and respect the history of the family, but apply its events and achievements to the current life. The chosen theory helps create a template for the analysis of personal values and experiences and improve the quality of life and family emotional status in the future.

MFT Concepts

MFT is characterized by eight core concepts that are interconnected to evaluate the existing family interactions, and this project includes the discussion of two of them, differentiation of self and nuclear family emotional process. The rationale for these concepts’ selection is that their understanding contributes to the identification of emotional processes within families of different types. The attitudes members develop toward each other and themselves determine family relationships.

Differentiation of Self

Differentiation of self is defined as one of the core concepts of MFT, the purpose of which is the separation of human thoughts and feelings. To be a part of a family or another social group means to be closely connected to common values and attitudes. As a result of such attachment, families are able to affect the way a person thinks, feels, or acts, neglecting the necessity to differentiate self (The Bowen Center for the Study of the Family, n.d.).

If a person’s self is poorly developed, there is a possibility of increased outside control and dependence on multiple factors. An individual cannot differentiate reality from the image introduced by a family, and if a person who guides disappears, unpredictable (and usually negative) outcomes are observed. A well-differentiated self is required for a person to be related to a family, as well as to be ready to think and behave independently. Such a position helps to distinguish problems, deal with conflicts, and achieve benefits in life.

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Nuclear Family Emotional Process

Being closely related to the concept of differentiation of self, the nuclear family emotional process is another concept for analysis. Its main idea is that people search for individuals for marriage with similar levels of self differentiation. The emotional system consists of various forces, attitudes, and beliefs, and there are four basic patterns that govern relationships within families. According to Bowen, family relationships depend on marital conflict when both spouses get anxious in their intention to control each other, identify the mistakes of the other, and resist their efforts (The Bowen Center for the Study of the Family, n.d.).

Family tension could arise if dysfunction in one of the spouses is observed, and the inability to differentiate control cannot be ignored. There are situations when spouses do not demonstrate their anxiety to each other due to equal controlling abilities by focusing their attention on children. As such, impairment of a child occurs, influencing his or her development and relationships. Finally, emotional distance as a part of the nuclear family emotional system plays a role when a person does not find it necessary to remove the existing distance and enhances isolation.


Taking into consideration the chosen MFT concepts, one should admit that family relationships introduce a complex process where human emotions, feelings, thoughts, and experiences are closely intertwined. It is not enough to find a person who could control or become a good leader in a family. The creation of a successful and well-functioning family requires the recognition of a variety of patterns and tasks. Bowen introduces a model to combine individual processes and social concerns into one system with properly determined functions and behaviors and strengthen the relationships between generations.


The Bowen Center for the Study of the Family. (n.d.). Eight concepts. Web.

Neukrug, E. S. (Ed.). (2015). The SAGE encyclopedia of theory of counseling and psychotherapy. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

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