Essays on Application of Bowen Family Systems Theory Case Study

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The paper "Application of Bowen Family Systems Theory " is a great example of a management case study.   Anxiety is common especially in child health organizations where one is faced with an imbalance between available resources and achievement of expected needs, fear of undesirable outcomes, the anxiety of parents and pressures from external funding agencies. Tension is portrayed in various ways including stress, decrease in clients numbers, conflict in alliances and existence of disconnect between programs and the established organizational frameworks. The entire services can end up being embattled thus requiring the solution of chronic differences.

This report describes efforts in personal decisions making through the application of Bowen Family Systems theory that helps in thinking past the therapy room by applying the key concepts of decision making in the workplace. Summary of the observation While working in an adolescent and child mental health service that consisted of five distinct teams with both outpatient and inpatient services, it came to my knowledge that each team was in partnership with both local and foreign welfare and health agencies. Every team was multidisciplinary and possessed a nursing department that paralleled the medical team though the whole team was embedded to the entire public health framework.

I assumed the responsibility of the agency director one year ago and have been working as a team leader for all the five teams. From the agency description, it is clear that it is characterized by one of the most complex systems with a long history of entrenched conflict, chronic tension and rivalries. Frequently, the teams are under considerable pressure from the funding agencies, lack of resources and high health risks faced by young people who form its clientele.

Nonetheless, the agency has remained relatively stable for the last one year due to sound decision making thereby leading to adaption to new service demands and reduced staff turnover. Decision making under Bowen Theory Between the 1960s and 1970s, Dr. Murray Bowen came up with a theoretical framework that predicted how people functioned in emotional and stressful situations. He went a step further and applied the framework to show how individuals relate in intense family settings. Nonetheless, this concept is commonly used by Bowen therapists to help clients to reflect on their own functioning while at the same time giving options for change (Sobel, 1982).

The theory application was later expanded to the workplace. Different workplace consultants have applied the theory in decision making by developing frameworks through which the theory is applied. According to Bowen theory, anxieties within families could be solved in more predictable ways including triaging, cut-off and adaptation. Notably, individuals exhibiting a high level of differentiation are able to autonomously function by making choices that correspond to their values; beliefs while at the same time remaining thoughtful even under pressure. However, those individuals with lower levels of differentiation tend to be emotionally reactive and are always faced with the pressure to act as if cut-off from others or else as fused.

According to this theory, where the tension increases between two people, they adapt in such a way to reduce stress. They become more compliant and dominant. Interestingly, over time they give more of themselves by taking up the responsibilities and roles of their partners. The theory stresses that; the conflict can well be managed by triaging which involves the third party.

The presence of the third party diffuses the present discomfort though it does not solve the issue between the concerned parties. The number of interlocking triangles under stressful condition increases and expands throughout the system. As Bowen suggests, a single way of noting increased anxiety within the system is by listening to the prevalent languages within the triangles such as cliques, gossip, withdrawals, emotional outbursts and alliances. Based on this, fusion in the workplace can only be achieved through togetherness that decreases anxiety and individual’ s creative functioning.

Nonetheless, the emotional conflict that persists between two persons will resolve automatically in the presence of a third party who remains outside the emotional space between the two. This suggests maintaining a neutral stance while remaining connected to both parties.


Sagar, R.R., & Wiseman, K.K. (Ed). (1982). Understanding organizations: Applications of Bowen family systems theory. Washington: Georgetown University Family Centre.

Sobel, B. (1982). Applications of Bowen family systems theory to organizations. In R.R. Sagar & K.K. Wiseman (Eds.). Understanding organizations: Applications of Bowen family systems theory (pp. 15–22). Washington: Georgetown University Family Centre.

Titelman, P. (Ed.). 2008. Triangles-Bowen family systems theory perspective. New York: Haworth.

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