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46th Symposium on Family Theory and Family Psychotherapy
November 6-7th, 2009

Recordings of the Symposium are available as a DVD set and as an audio MP3 set. DVD sections (two DVDs each, with the exception of Section 4) are also available. See below for DVD contents and purchase information.

Distinguished Guest Lecturer: Christopher A. Cullis, PhD
Frances Hobart Herrick Professor of Biology, Case Western Reserve University

An assumption of Bowen theory is that the concept of the emotional system applies to plants as well as animals. It is in this spirit that we have selected this year’s Distinguished Guest Lecturer. Christopher Cullis has long researched the plant species, Linum usitatissimum (flax), and made a remarkable discovery: the plant’s genome can reorganize itself in a non-random way in response to life experiences and the change can be transmitted to subsequent generations. In other words, changes in the plant’s behavior reflect changes occurring at the genetic level. Dr. Cullis’ discoveries not only provide a broader understanding of natural systems, but they may be specifically relevant to Bowen theory’s concept of the multigenerational transmission process. He is the author of Plant Genomics and Proteomics (Wiley-Liss, 2004), a volume that is as accessible to the non-botanist as to the botanist.




Welcome and Introduction —  Michael E. Kerr, MD

Attachment, Chronic Anxiety, and Family Emotional Process — Robert J. Noone, PhD

The evolutionarily ancient "stress response" and "calm and connection" systems play important roles in nuclear family emotional process and the development of a self.

Toward an Objective View of Chronic Anxiety —  Christopher East, PsyD

Natural systems theory makes an objective study of anxiety possible by describing relationship patterns in families that are driven by chronic anxiety.

On the Separation of Emotion and Intellect — Daniel V. Papero, PhD

Neuroscience has demonstrated that although cognitive and emotional circuitry are relatively separate, it is likely that emotion interacts with cognitive processes to some degree.

Panel Discussion


Maternal Style: Consistent or Inconsistent with Differentiation of Self —  Kathleen B. Kerr, MSN

Bowen theory suggests that the intensity of the mother-offspring relationship better predicts the outcome of offspring than the typologies of maternal style.

Maternal Differentiation, Genetic Polymorphisms, and a Child's Self-Regulation —  Elizabeth A. Skowron, PhD

Maternal differentiation, plus the genes in the mother and child that influence the stress response, govern the development of the emotional self-regulation in the child.

Panel Discussion



The Organization of the Plant Genome and the Extent of Genomic Variation within a Species — Christopher A. Cullis, PhD

Genome size can vary across the plant kingdom by more than 1000-fold and by nearly two-fold within a species. Yet all plants carry out essentially the same basic functions such as developing roots, stems, and flowers as well as making numerous secondary metabolic products. Why does this variation occur and what role can it play in adaptation?


Environmentally Induced Heritable Changes in Flax: Where, When, and How These Occur —  Christopher A. Cullis, PhD

Certain flax varieties respond to specific stress growth environments by modifying their genome. The variation occurs in a specific subset of the genome and can be transmitted stably to the progeny over many generations. The changes occur during the vegetative growth of the plants under stress environments and can be directly selected for, resulting in the environment being an inducer of genetic variation as well as the selective agent acting on the variation induced.

Panel Discussion



Biological and Emotional Roots of Tribalism  —  Stephanie J. Ferrara, MSW

Abundant examples exist of how the ancient legacy of tribalism is active in today’s world. Abundant opportunities exist to apply the principle of differentiation of self to one’s choices of response.

Differentiation and Ethics: The Social / Political Responsibility of Higher Education —  David S. Hargrove, PhD

The responsibilities of institutions of higher education reach beyond educating students. Colleges and universities must take positions to differentiate themselves within the social and political processes that give them life.

Emotional Process in Society: A Vital Concept — C. Margaret Hall, PhD

Emotional process in society powerfully affects family interactions. We are who we are in large part because of how we deal with social influences as well as how we cope with family pressures.

Panel Discussion


Family, Self, Society: Co-Conspirators in Terminal Illness — Linda Piontek, DMA

The multigenerational family, immediate family of origin, and marital relationship can all contribute to emotional states that foster serious illness. Society also contributes to “doing in” one person to protect the group as a whole.

Suicide and Systems —  Anthony J. Wilgus, MSW

A detailed case study illustrates that suicide is an event transcending the biological and psychological processes of the individual. The lens of Bowen theory allows examination of the role of multiple relationships and generations in the phenomenon.

Panel Discussion



Family Emotional Process and Interfaith Marriage  —  Eileen Gottlieb, MEd

The presence of interfaith marriages across five generations in a family is used to study unresolved emotional attachment, the patterns of managing it across generations, and the family’s capacity to adapt to relationship challenges.

The Use of Language in Bowen Theory —  Randall T. Frost, MDiv

Solid self includes clearly defined beliefs, opinions, convictions, and life principles that are anchored in reality. It also includes biological factors. The meaning of “self” informs and is informed by other terms in the theory.

Panel Discussion

Code Name Image Price Availability  
DVD-AS 46-Set 46th Annual Symposium DVD Set   $300.00  
AS-46-09-Section 1 (1 and 2) 46th Symposium - Section 1   $100.00  
AS-46-09-Section 2 (3 and 4) 46th Symposium - Section 2   $100.00  
AS-46-09-Section 3 (5 and 6) 46th Symposium - Section 3   $100.00  
AS-46-09-Section 4 (7) 46th Symposium - Section 4   $50.00  
AS-46-09-MP3 46th Annual Symposium MP3   $125.00  

For more information, please contact The Bowen Center at 202-965-4400 or