chapter  14
28 Pages

Challenges of Conducting Bowen Family Systems Research on Differentiation of Self


Murray Bowen developed his theory of family emotional functioning in the course of doing family research. When he began a fi ve-year research project from 1954 to 1959 at the National Institute of Mental Health, he designed a research plan to fi t as closely as possible to other structured research in science (Bowen, p. 471). 1 He elaborated in great detail an initial hypothesis that “anticipated every relationship problem and every clinical situation that could develop” in the project that brought mothers and young adult schizophrenic patients to live together on a research ward of the hospital (p. 470). He wrote:

The hypothesis also predicted the changes that would occur in psychotherapy. When research observations were not consistent with the hypothesis, the hypothesis was modifi ed to fi t the new facts, the psychotherapy was modifi ed to fi t the hypothesis, and new predictions were made about the results of the psychotherapy. . . . Any failure to change in psychotherapy was as much a reason to reexamine and change the hypothesis as any other unpredicted change. Strict adherence to this principle resulted in a theoretical-therapeutic system that was developed as an integrated unit, with psychotherapy determined by theory.