Five members of the Kasekela community.


""I support the view that [the human] is as scientific as the other forms of life on the planet, that it will finally be possible to construct a total human theory from scientific facts alone." (Dr. Murray Bowen)

Bowen Theory grew out of intensive family research and has continued to evolve through the research efforts of faculty across the country and beyond. Studies range from formal to informal, using both quantitative and qualitative methods. Observation was a hallmark of Bowen's research at NIMH, where families were observed around the clock. Efforts were made to describe observations objectively without labeling or diagnosing. The discrepancies between self report and observation were considered important in developing a scientific view of the human.

Dr. Bowen rooted his theory in evolution, and believed much could be learned about the human emotional system from studies of other life forms from which the human evolved. Bowen read widely across disciplines, such as sociology, anthropology, biology, and ethology, in his efforts at developing a science of human behavior. Today, researchers and clinicians continue the effort of looking across disciplines to understand the human. Advances in evolutionary biology continue to suggest that Bowen's concepts have relevance to non-human as well as human systems. Bowen conferences often feature researchers who offer these interdisciplinary perspectives.

Researchers who incorporate a systems view challenge themselves to observe interactions between multiple members of a family or an organization. They consider impacts such as compensatory changes and reverberations throughout a system.

(Note: This description of Bowen's family research is excerpted and adapted from a literature review by VCFS faculty member, Monika Baege, referencing the following sources: Bowen, 1978 and Kerr & Bowen, 1988. For further information, see Books or Faculty Publications under the Resources link.)

Mercy Russell Hyde, M.S.W.

Mercy Russell Hyde, MSW’s research interests include a natural system’s view of slavery through the study of slavemaking in a nonhuman species: the ant; the societal emotional process in the history of American slavery and the civil rights movement; and the development of research methodology to validate single case participant-observer research in the application of Bowen Family System’s Theory in one’s own family.

Erik Thompson, M.A.

Erik Thompson, MA’s research interests include gaining a systems view of self-injurious behavior by including facts about the social context of this behavior in non-human primates. The research has implications for understanding alarm stimulating behavior in other realms.