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48th Symposium on Family Theory and Family Psychotherapy
November 4-5th, 2011

Recordings of the Symposium are available as an audio MP3 set. Symposium DVD sets will be produced when the Bowen Center receives 25 orders. Orders require a $75 deposit that will be returned in full if we do not receive the 25 orders necessary to make this project financially feasible. Please order online or contact the Center at or 202-965-4400 to reserve your DVD set.

Distinguished Guest Lecturer: Raghavendra Gadagkar, PhD
Professor at the Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, in Bangalore, India.

The major focus of Dr. Gadagkar’s research is the origin and evolution of cooperation in animals, especially the social insects, such as ants, bees, and wasps.

The relevance of his work to our own species is captured in one of his recent articles:

Anthropologists can offer us a glimpse into the lives and mores of ‘primitive’ and ‘exotic’ human societies. Biologists can do much more; they can offer us insights from a whole range of animal societies with millions of years of evolutionary history. And those of us who study insect societies can hope to harness wisdom from an altogether different sub-kingdom of animal life. I certainly do not think we should imitate insect societies blindly, but I do think that they can hold a mirror to us and offer us a means to reflect on our own society and learn more about ourselves.



Welcome and Introduction —  Anne S. McKnight, EdD

When Does a Field of Study Become a Science? — Randall T. Frost, MDiv
Multiple conditions are required for a field of study to become a science. Knowledge of these factors can inform the effort to move Bowen theory toward science.

Context Dependence and the Study of Harvester Ant Behavior —  LeAnn Howard, MSW
Studies of harvester ant behavior conducted by Deborah M. Gordon reveal the importance of context in understanding behavior and fitness. This presentation will discuss her recent work and potential contributions of Bowen theory in the understanding of context.

Panel Discussion

Multigenerational Processes Shaping Individual Differences in Stress Reactivity —  Robert J. Noone, PhD
There are several current hypotheses regarding the transmission of individual differences in stress reactivity from one generation to the next. All may be accurate and interact.

Evolution of Eusociality in Homo Sapiens —  Laurie Lassiter, PhD, MSW
The systematic development of variation in differentiation of self in Homo sapiens may have given early human groups an advantage.

Panel Discussion


Interrogating an Insect Society - Part I — Raghavendra Gadagkar, PhD
The Indian paper wasp is a highly social species that functions in a remarkably coordinated and efficient manner. The lecture (in two parts) will be unusual in describing the varied research approaches ("interrogations") that have revealed the "language" of the insects that enables a large number of individuals to work together with minimal conflict.

Interrogating an Insect Society - Part II —  Raghavendra Gadagkar, PhD
As another social species, but one more vulnerable to destructive conflict than these paper wasps, human beings can perhaps gain from learning how the members of a "lowly" insect species interact so successfully.

Panel Discussion


The Evolution of Helping: Altruism to Empathy to Differentiation of Self  —  Stephanie J. Ferrera, MSW
Altruism and empathy are part of the emotional system the human has in common with many other animals. Differentiation of self balances emotion with thinking in responding to the needs of others.

Emotion and Intellect: A Cooperative Team —  Daniel V. Papero, PhD, MSW
This presentation reviews research on the interplay of systems in the brain to explore how the emotional and cognitive systems are capable of working as a cooperative team.

Functions of Belief — James E. Jones, PhD
Beliefs can influence one's own functioning, and beliefs about others can influence the functioning of those others.

Panel Discussion


Revisiting the Cancer Riddle — Michael E. Kerr, MD
An understanding of cancer will likely depend on the development of a systems theory of the individual that discerns basic patterns and forces governing the body and that can be integrated with Bowen theory.

The Regulation of Ovulation in Nature and the Family —  Victoria Harrison, MA
Variation in human ovulation illustrates ways in which differentiation of self, anxiety, and reactivity to relationships affect reproduction. The perspective afforded by Bowen theory is important for research and clinical practice.

Panel Discussion


Evolution, Epigenetics, and Bowen Theory — Anne S. McKnight, EdD
Epigenetics, the regulation of genes through heritable mechanisms not based in the DNA but influenced by the environment, is described and related to Bowen's concept of the multigenerational transmission process in families.

The Evolution of the Primary Triangle: How Neuropeptides May Influence Family Relationship Patterns —  Margaret Donley, MSW
Mammalian neuropeptides play a significant role in regulating the stress response by decreasing fear and increasing the expression of social behaviors necessary for pair-bonding, maternal behavior and sexual behavior.

Panel Discussion


Mapping Relationship Patterns of Unwed Expectant Couples — Margaret Otto, MSW
Data from 50 couples used an interview guide to explore basic descriptors of the family units of the unwed couples. Results from the original and follow-up group of 10 couples demonstrate distinct patterns of interactions consistent with Bowen theory.

Multigenerational Family Stress and Nuclear Family Functioning —  Phillip Klever, MSW
Bowen theory sees that the human’s interdependent relationships profoundly influence his behavior. A longitudinal study applies this idea in examining the influence of stressors in the multigenerational family on nuclear family functioning.

Panel Discussion

Code Name Image Price Availability  
AS-48-11-MP3 48th Annual Symposium MP3   $125.00  
DVD-AS-48-Set 48th Annual Symposium DVD Set   $300.00  

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