Science & Bowen Family Systems Theory

Dr. Murray Bowen was well known to be extremely interested and well read in the natural sciences. One of his main goals was to connect the study of human behavior and functioning to the natural sciences including neuroscience, immunology, genetics, & evolutionary biology to name a few. To this end he established the tradition of hosting annual symposia in which a well-established scientist would be invited to present his/her work to the Bowen community. According to Dr. Robert Noone, “Dr. Bowen was keeping the theory open to knowledge that was developing in the sciences”. At these conferences, the Bowen theory community was also communicating as accurately as possible the concepts of Bowen theory to the guest scientists, resulting in an interchange of information of value to everyone.

The Center for Family Consultation has also incorporated this tradition by hosting annual symposia. Indeed, May 4th and 5th concluded the 35th Midwest Symposium in Wilmette, Illinois. We invited Peter J. Gianaros, PhD who presented his research on The Neurobiology of Socioeconomic Disadvantage and Health. CFC faculty and attendees were very impressed with his work and the information presented. Not only were his hypotheses and experimental designs elegant but also the results & conclusions were fascinating. His focus on socioeconomic status (SES) and its effects on the stress response and the brain further illustrated what we already know:  Humans are very hard to study objectively; There are countless factors that effect human development and functioning; The influence of SES is not only dependent on the actual facts about a particular environment but also on the perception or meaning an individual attaches to his/her circumstances. Dr. Gianaros’s work provides another important layer to our understanding of the human condition.

Dr. Gianaros was an outstanding example of a scientist working on ideas of interest to our presenters and audience. He quickly appreciated that the conference attendees were used to the complexity of multiple variables that go into understanding emotional process in the individual and the family unit, and the subsequent symptom development. Having listened to and engaged in discussions about Bowen theory on day-one of the conference, he added study results to his keynote presentation on day-two that would be most relevant to a Bowen theory audience. A stimulating dialogue ensued between Dr. Gianaros and symposium participants that illuminated the relevancy of his work to Bowen theorists.

And of course, we were also fortunate enough to have many other excellent speakers and thinkers presenting their ideas and work throughout both days. All of which adds to our knowledge and understanding of Bowen Theory.

CFC congratulates all of our guest presenters, faculty, and volunteers for another successful Midwest Symposium, and is deeply appreciative of all the efforts made by so many to organize and execute such an event. CFC is committed to continuing the tradition Dr. Bowen started so many decades ago. The effort to expand the on-going dialogue between Bowen Family Systems thinking and the natural sciences is that important.

Acknowledgements: Faculty members Cecilia Guzman, Sydney Reed, Robert Noone and Leslie Fox contributed to this post.

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