Bowen’s Systems Family theory

 Bowen’s Systems Family theory

The Bowen’s Systems Family theory is based on the premise that as human beings, we function as a single emotional unit. As such, to understand how a family functions, it is vital to view members of such an entity within the context of their family relationships and ties. This is so because, to a great extent, families primarily affect their members’ actions, feelings, and thoughts in a way that may be seen as if they live under a similar emotional skin (Erdem & Safi, 2018). What this means is that a family exists as a unit. As such, it is impossible to study a single member without considering the other members. In essence, the feelings of any individual member of a family unit have a ripple effect on the entire family. Such connectedness and reactivity make family members function interdependently.  This aspect of emotional connection and interdependence within a family unit is a deep-rooted trait, and the relationship among a family is a very ingrained trait. However, it varies from one unit to another. Almost all aspects of human interactions involve emotions. Family, to a great length, influences these emotions. As such, to heal most of the emotional disorders, family impact ought to come into play. If members of a family lack the capacity to think through their reaction to relationship dilemmas, thereby reacting anxiously to emotional demands, then a state of reactivity or chronic anxiety may be experienced (Erdem & Safi, 2018). This paper seeks to examine how Bowen’s Systems Family Theory can be used to better understand the functioning of the Gunther family through calming the system, assessing nuclear family issues, and by expanding the view to previous generations.

Calming the System

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The first step towards understanding the functioning of a family using the Bowen’s Systems Family theory entails finding a level ground by taking focus away from the anxious family patterns (Erdem & Safi, 2018). Doing so ensures that anxiety in the family is lowered to non-reactive levels.  As such, in this case, the tension in the family has to do with the fact that Eric and Sam are both overly expectant mothers to a point where almost all their time is gobbled up in preparations for their kid. To get a good understanding of the family, Bowen’s theory proposes calming the system to ensure the assessment is objective and that anxiety does not get on the way of uncovering vital information. In the Gunther family context, the theory would assist in gathering information about the client’s family from an objective purview.

Nuclear family issues

            After calming the system, the Bowen’s Systems Family theory helps in uncovering matters relating to a client’s nuclear family. It entails locating a presenting client family’s problem in the broader family context (Erdem & Safi, 2018). The goal here is usually to develop themes that form the foundation of the client’s nuclear family. These themes may include gender themes and economic success themes that may appear to influence how a family responds to anxious situations. In my client family’s case, the parents are expecting a child in a few months, and it is the reason behind their anxiety. This change informs hypotheses about their symptoms that have interfered with the operation of family triangles in tackling stress. All of their anxiety is directed towards their unborn child. As nurses, the two family members lead a busy life, and being overly obsessed with the awaited kid is making them spend most of their time in preparations, which adds up to their nuclear family issues.

Expanding the view to previous generations

            Through Bowen’s Systems Family theory, a deeper understanding of the functioning of a family unit by taking an even more expansive point of exploration. It includes diving into the previous generations of a family to try and locate some repetitive patterns throughout the generational transitions (Erdem & Safi, 2018). The goal is to connect the client’s family to present tensions to multigenerational themes. An exploration into a nuclear family’s family of origin often offers some potent themes that shape the struggles being presently experienced. Using Bowen’s theory to clearly understand the situation that Eric and Sam are in would need an in-depth exploration of their parents, which it believes provides a link.  

Calgary Family Assessment Model (CFAM)

The Calgary Family Assessment Model is a widely accepted three-pronged framework of conducting family assessments by nurses. The CFAM assesses three family components, namely a structural, developmental, and functional assessment. Using the Calgary Family Assessment Model (CFAM), it is possible to organize and conduct a family interview in lesser time and ultimately ending with a better understanding of the patient and the family(Leahey & Wright, 2016). The structural assessment entails examining the family structure with respect to immediate family members, their gender as well as the relationship with the extended family. A developmental evaluation requires an examination of the family stage in relating it to the tasks that are associated with it. Finally, a functional assessment involves an exploration of the capability of a family to perform crucial functions (Leahey & Wright, 2016). For this paper, the Gunther family was interviewed, and the structural, developmental, and functional assessment levels of the CFAM will be discussed.

Structural Assessment

Internal Structure

As for the composition, the client family is conjugal, consisting of a father, and an expectant mother living in their home in East Long Meadow. The husband, Eric, age 34, and Sam, age 34, are expectant parents hoping to get a baby girl in the next few months. The couple has a close relationship with their extended families. Eric’s parents Anne and Rogers live in East Long Meadow as well and frequently visits them. Karen and Dan, Sam’s parents, live in a different city but pays the couple visits regularly. Little is known about the closeness of Eric and Sam to their siblings. However, Peter has two brothers John and Peter, while Liam is the brother to Sam.  Sam has Ashley as her sister in law as she is married to Liam, and they have a four years old daughter. Little is known about the relationship between Sam and his brother’s family. The couple has a two-year-old poodle. Samantha has a deep connection with poodles having even joined a poodle club to socialize with other poodles and their owners. Eric is currently taking guitar lessons. The couple is also a huge fan of Ghostbusters, and when they are not spending time with their extended families, they enjoy hobby type clubs and cooking. Being the husband, Sam attested that Eric is the boss in the family. During the interview, Eric and Sam said that they believe the two of them, together with their unborn child, make up the family. The couple, however, anticipates getting more children in the future.

Gender Roles

When it comes to a family unit, gender plays a very crucial role in defining the behaviors and expectations of each member making up the unit. The couple lives in a cozy neighborhood, but the two contributes towards paying for utility bills and mortgages. Boundaries in this family are not clearly defined, and roles and responsibilities interlock.


Developmental Assessment

            Both Eric and Sam are nurses by profession at Baystate hospital. The two have a hectic life, however, they said they pleased with their nursing careers whatsoever. The couple said that they are so excited about having their first child. The anxiety of receiving their first child is taking too much of their time as they use it, making preparations for their newborn. They are optimistic that it will be an exciting experience to welcome a new member to the family. The family, however, looks into bearing more children after this firstborn.

 Functional Assessment


Away from work, the couple spends most of the time together. If they are not with the extended families, they cook together to attend hobby type clubs and spend time with their poodles. Both Eric and Sam are involved in preparations for their firstborn. Sam attested that Eric is and has been very supportive during her pregnancy. The two involve themselves with charity work for the pediatric population. To socialize with other poodles and their owners, Samantha joined a poodle club.

Multiple Variables that Shape Family and Community Systems


The attitude of family members towards gender roles. The belief that members of a family harbors regarding gender roles shape the family and community to a large extent. A family where roles are defined with gender biasness in such a way that there is a widespread belief that a given task is for a particular gender may result in unnecessary anxiety within a family setting.


Availability of social support networks. The support shapes a family. It derives from other members of the extended families, close friends, and the community at large. These support networks play a huge role in determining the health status of members of a given family physically, psychologically, and emotionally (World Health Organization, n.d).


Income and social status. In essence, higher income and social status have a link with better health. When members of a family unit feel that they belong to a lower income and social status, they are likely to get disturbed emotionally, which is a common source of chronic anxiety (WHO, n.d). It is the explanation behind the reason why, as the gap between the rich and the poor widens, there occurs a more significant difference in health.


Occupation and job security. People tend to be exposed to health risks more if their occupations take the life out of them, or they have job security issues. Job insecurity is the cause of many chronic anxiety cases (WHO, n.d).


Findings from the Genogram and Ecomap

To begin with, from the Ecomap, it is evident that the client’s family has too much pressure to deal with. From maintaining the closeness with members of the extended family, time for voluntary work that they engage in in addition to their usually demanding work schedule. The additional excitement that has led the couple to spend more time making preparations to welcome their newborn adds up to the challenge.


Secondly, the Gunther family has a male dominance in its generational family structure. From the Genegram, it is evident that most of the family’s members are potent a factor that could hold an explanation on the family’s response to anxious situations.


During my meetings with the client’s family, some specific problems stood to be prevalent across the board. From the family assessment, the widespread problem for the client that I will prioritize includes anxiety and work-life balance. To do this, I have narrowed down to three interventions that I know will best help out the family out of their current quagmire. The first intervention will be boosting family engagement. The engagement will help identify if the anxiety the family is suffering has anything to do with their inability to cater for their child or it is out of other family needs.


The second intervention will be paying the client family regular home visits to ascertain their progress by balancing their busy life schedule and all the other external aspects demanding their attention. These include connectedness with not only their generational parents but the other members of their more full family circles, neighbors, and friends. Finally, as the third intervention, I plan to refer the client family to National Alliance on Mental Illness NAMI)Provider package, which is a class of mental health professionals that is designed to expand participants’ compassion to individuals and their families.


Erdem, G., & Safi, O. A. (2018). The cultural lens approach to Bowen family systems theory: Contributions of family change theory. Journal of Family Theory & Review, 10(2), 469-483.

Leahey, M., & Wright, L. M. (2016). Application of the Calgary Family Assessment and Intervention Models: reflections on the reciprocity between the personal and the professional. Journal of Family Nursing, 22(4), 450-459.

World Health Organization. (n.d) Health Impact Assessment (HIA): The Determinants of Health, World Health Organization. retrieved from


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