Academic Year 2015 – 2016

June 2, 2016
Confronting Ocean Plastic Pollution at the Global Scale
Nicholas Mallos, MS
Director, Trash Free Seas Program, Ocean Conservancy, Washington, DC

As much as 8,000,000 tonnes of plastic enters the ocean every year and this amount is predicted to double within the next decade. This number keeps increasing in pace with global plastics production. Left unchecked, by 2025 as much as 1 tonne of plastic may be in the ocean for every 3 tonnes of fin fish. Plastic inputs are ultimately an unintended consequence of rapid development, with the most concentrated inputs currently generated from several rapidly developing economies. These plastic inputs to the ocean not only harm marine environments and fisheries, but also impose economic costs to cities in the form of public health, water contamination, and quality of life. New analyses led by Ocean Conservancy and its partners to conclude, however, that global plastics input to the ocean can be significantly reduced with a portfolio of initiatives customized to geographies where ocean plastic inputs are largest. To achieve these reductions, we need to combine an accelerated build-up of waste collection infrastructure and treatment technologies with a broader circular economy approach which represents a necessary redesign of the future, where industrial systems are restorative and regenerative by intention and design.

May 5, 2016
The Murray Bowen Archives Project: Past, Present, and Future
The Rev. Carol Jeunnette, PhD
Executive Director, The Murray Bowen Archives Project, Williamsburg, VA

When Dr. Murray Bowen died in 1990, he left a vast collection of materials, (including audio and videotapes, professional and “Dear Family” letters, original research records, drafts of papers, and presentations) that documents the thinking and research that led to Bowen theory.  The Murray Bowen Archives Project is dedicated to making these materials available to scientists, scholars, historians, clinicians, and the interested public.  An overview of the project will be offered, with emphasis on future plans.  Dr. Joanne Bowen, President of The Murray Bowen Archives Project, will be present during the discussion following the presentation to answer questions.

April 13, 2016 (Wednesday)
Nature’s Family Health Plan: Neurobiological Benefits in Primate and Rodent Parental Models
Kelly Lambert, PhD
Faculty, Joan Brock Professor of Psychology, Department Chair, Randolph Macon College, Ashland, VA
As the parental brain extends its attention from self to offspring, neural and physiological adaptations enhance emotional resilience and cognitive flexibility. Stress responsivity – associated with susceptibility to psychiatric illness and chronic disease – is dampened in males from both bi-parental and uni-parental primate models (e.g. owl monkeys and long-tailed macaques, respectively). Recent investigation of maternal rat brains suggests that potential mechanisms of this effect are related to reduced responsiveness of stress hormone receptors and enhanced neuroplasticity markers in the hippocampus, a brain area known for integrative emotional functions and learning ability.

March 10, 2016
Emotional Process in Society
Katharine G. Baker, PhD
Private Practice, Northampton, MA
Can Bowen theory give us a way to understand the enormous complexity of societal events that we observe or experience personally? Are these events, which have occurred throughout human history, enhanced through media bombardment? This presentation will apply concepts from Bowen theory such as differentiation, triangles, projection process, reciprocal functioning, and cutoff to a number of turning points in history in an attempt to develop a model for analyzing and understanding these events.

Presentation Slides

February 4, 2016
Clinical Public Health Integration into Medical Education: Teaching an Enhanced Medical Model That Includes Families, Communities and Populations
Lawrence Deyton, MSPH, MD
Senior Associate Dean for Clinical Public Health, George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Washington, DC
Clinical Public Health is the enhancement of health care by providers’ use of the principles of epidemiology and population health, health policy, health systems management, and community health. Changes in the structure, financing, and performance expectations of health care systems are creating unparalleled opportunities for improved individual and community health while drastically altering the roles of individual providers and the health systems in which they practice. Accordingly, medical professional education should provide the requisite knowledge and skill-building, so tomorrows’ providers will be equipped to provide excellent care to individual patients. This enhances their ability to understand and perform their role as community health leaders to identify and mitigate community-level determinants of health.

December 10, 2015
A Family’s Reaction to Death: What Difference Does a Family Systems View Offer?
Anne S. McKnight, EdD
Director, The Bowen Center
This talk will address the predominant theories of grief work in Western culture and in the world of grief therapy as well as the new research on bereavement based on the concept of resilience. These ideas will be contrasted with those in family systems theory in which the level of differentiation across generations is the framework for understanding a family’s response to the death of a loved one. The emotional shock wave – or the aftershocks in a family to a death – will be illustrated through a case study.

October 8, 2015
The Many Ways that Murray Bowen Influenced People to Think Systems
Andrea Schara, LCSWA
Private Practice, Darien, CT and Washington, DC
One of Dr. Murray Bowen’s challenges in developing a science of human behavior was to seek effective ways to engage people to think theoretically about social systems. What difference would learning family systems theory make in their lives? Ms. Schara is affiliated with Leaders for Tomorrow, where she was founder and president and began the Oral History Project. She will present the scope of this ongoing project to date and its effectiveness in documenting the many ways people have used Bowen theory and benefitted through efforts to define a self.

Academic Year 2014 – 2015

May 7, 2015
Defining Self in Family, Profession, and Society
Peter Titelman, PhD
Private Practice, Northampton, MA
Defining a self in one’s family is a foundation for raising one’s level of differentiation. To be robust, this work includes defining or differentiating a self not only in one’s family but also within one’s profession, work system, and within the community and larger society. In this presentation Dr. Titelman will focus on defining a self in a significant professional relationship and his effort to define a self in two societal arenas: the Civil Rights Movement and the Palestinian/Israeli quagmire.

April 15, 2015
Attachment and Differentiation in Rhesus Monkey Infants
Stephen J. Suomi
Chief of the Laboratory of Comparative Ethology at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Bethesda, MD
Recent research has demonstrated that — like some human newborn infants — newborn rhesus monkey infants are capable of engaging in extensive face-to-face interactions with their mothers throughout their initial days and weeks of life. These face-to-face interactions are thought to facilitate establishing attachment bonds between the infants and their mothers. However, unlike the case for human infants, such interactions largely disappear during the monkeys’ second month of life and seldom reappear. Possible factors underlying this dramatic difference between these two species will be presented and discussed, including the likely need for the monkey infants to begin to differentiate their own social activities from those of their mothers as their locomotive and other physical capabilities rapidly mature.

February 5, 2015
Applications of Bowen Theory in the Public Policy Arena
Patricia Comella, JD
Faculty Member, The Bowen Center, Washington, DC
The formation of public policy almost always involves issues about which interested parties hold differing views of varying intensity about their resolution. Within the framework of Bowen Theory, those parties form a three-person emotional relationship system, the basic building block which is known as a triangle. The concept of the triangle in Bowen Theory describes the functioning of emotional systems, as well as the principles for managing such systems, particularly as the intensity of emotional process within the system increases around the presenting issues. Applying this knowledge to manage the resolution process will be the subject of this presentation.

Academic Year 2013 – 2014

June 12, 2014
Dr. Murray Bowen’s Legacy as Written in Letters to His Family
Judith M. Bowen, MD
Psychiatrist in Private Practice, Birmingham, AL
Murray Bowen’s “Dear Family” letters contain numerous examples of his theoretical thinking about the concepts of Bowen family systems theory and its applications. Dr. Bowen will present some of these letters that comprise one distinctive component of the Murray Bowen Archives. Many of these writings illustrate theory but also reveal Dr. Bowen’s keen sense of humor and powers of observation.

January 9, 2014
The Parental Brain: Transformations and Adaptations
Kelly Lambert, PhD
Professor and Chair, Department of Psychology, Randolph Macon College, Ashland, VA
The transformation that accompanies the onset of motherhood and fatherhood in mammals is remarkable. Based on research with rodent and primate models, Dr. Lambert will discuss the neurobiological and behavioral aspects of these transformations. Her findings suggest that the transition from an animal focused on self-preservation to one that is responsive to the needs of other animals represents a significant transition in both neural and behavioral systems that enable parents to meet the many challenges associated with raising offspring.

September 26, 2013
What is Family Emotional Process?
Daniel V. Papero, PhD, MSSW
Faculty Member, The Bowen Center, Washington, DC
The family emotional system presents the combination of emotion and relationship. Emotion provides the energy and relationships provide the arena for the expression of emotion in behavior. The combination produces the dynamic ebb and flow of family life across time. Family emotional process lies at the heart of the family, an ever-present phenomenon shaping, shifting, and guiding the response of individuals and the family unit to the challenges of daily living. Dr. Papero will describe family emotional process more fully, attempting to define more clearly what it is and how it works.

Academic Year 2012 – 2013

June 13, 2013
A Systems View of Anti-Semitism
Eileen B. Gottlieb, MEd
Director, The Family Center, Delray Beach, Florida
The differences in Christian and Judaic theology and practices have been considered the root of anti-Semitic behavior for generations. This cause and effect, narrow view of a complex, persistent, and widespread phenomenon is less than helpful and more than inaccurate in explaining the fundamental emotional process that has driven anti-Semitism throughout history. This presentation attempts to integrate the facts of biology, Bowen family systems theory, and history in an effort to bring greater clarity to a difficult and troubling aspect of human behavior. A broader, more factual view provides more options for addressing its presence to the benefit of all humankind.

Academic Year 2011 – 2012

May 10, 2012
Anxiety, Addiction, and the Family
Anne S. McKnight, EdD, MSW
Director, The Bowen Center
Dr. McKnight will discuss addiction as an outcome of an emotional process through which family anxiety is both generated and managed. She will address the reciprocal interactions of the family that lead to the progression of the addiction as well as the anxiety that is unleashed when an addicted member stops using drugs or alcohol. Some ideas about the multigenerational nature of addiction will be explored.

March 15, 2012
The Relevance of Language Choices Negotiated by Parents and Children for the Survival of an Endangered Language
Gabriela Perez-Baez, PhD
Curator, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institute
San Lucas Quiaviní is a Zapotec Community in Oaxaca, Mexico. Since the 1970s San Lucas has seen large scale migration to Los Angeles where about half the community resides. This presentation centers on the factors influencing parental language choices among migrants. With a substantial number of families settling or being raised in Los Angeles, family language planning is of relevance to the survival prospects of San Lucas Quiaviní Zapotec in the diaspora and the home community.

January 12, 2012
The Structure of Bowen Theory
Randall T. Frost, MDiv
Director of Training and Research, Living Systems
Dr. Bowen defined eight concepts, two main variables, two counterbalancing life forces, numerous subvariables and one key assumption that make up the structure of Bowen theory. This presentation will examine how the parts fit together to make a coherent whole and how developments in the life sciences — such as research on the stress response and epigenetics — fit into the structure of the theory.

September 29, 2011
What is Resilience?
Louise Rauseo, MS, RN
Most people recognize resilience when they see it — the ability to “bounce back” from adversity or hardship. Is resilience “hardwired” into a person or is it a relationship process? What factors increase resilience in a person or a family? This presentation will pose some questions about the research on resilience over the last thirty to forty years and suggest new ways of thinking about resilience in a person and in a family in light of Bowen theory.


Werner, Emmy E. and Ruth S. Smith. 1992. Overcoming the Odds: High Risk Children from Birth to Adulthood. New York: Cornell University Press.

Rutter, Michael. “Psychosocial Resilience and Protective Mechanisms.” 1987. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 57(3): 316-331.

Academic Year 2010 – 2011

April 7, 2011
Anxiety Disorders: What is the Emotion and What is Disordered?
Dr. Bruce N. Cuthbert
National Institute of Mental Health
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorders and result in considerable impairment across many areas of functioning. Dr. Cuthbert will present a perspective on studying emotions, particularly anxiety, empirically. This view will be exemplified by recent findings comparing emotional responses in patients with differing primary diagnoses of anxiety. Patients with greater levels of chronicity consistently show diminished fear. This apparently counter-intuitive finding will be discussed in the context of the new NIMH Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) project.

March 17, 2011
Literary Study from the Perspective of Bowen Theory
David S. Hargrove, PhD
Professor of Psychology, Appalachian State University
Authors like Richard Russo and Anne Tyler tell stories we want to hear because they resonate with our own experience. They give us their best writing and, in return, our best reading recognizes that our own stories affect what we see and hear in the narrative. Bowen family systems theory offers the reader a way to define oneself in relationship to the emotional field of the narrative, which strengthens the self and enhances appreciation of the literature.

February 10, 2011
The Altruism Equation: Blood Kinship and the Evolution of Goodness
Dr. Lee Alan Dugatkin
Professor of Biology, University of Louisville
Can science tell us whether blood is thicker than water? Are we particularly nice to our blood kin and, if so, why? In The Altruism Equation, Dr. Dugatkin tells the story of the fierce debate about altruism and kinship among evolutionary biologists, Before the debate was over, politics, philosophy, even religion, would enter the fray, complicating for close to a century attempts to find and settle on a scientific answer to a scientific question. Today that answer is known as “Hamilton’s Rule,” which states that relatives are worth helping in direct proportion to their genetic relatedness. The engine of goodness, Hamilton’s Rule suggests, lies in the family unit. This rule has been as influential on evolutionary biology as Newton’s Laws of Motion have been on physics.