Margaret Donley, LCSW
How family processes contribute to the development of symptoms in children is a complex and compelling puzzle for even the most seasoned family therapists. Although most family therapies acknowledge the influence the family has on the development of children, how this influence actually occurs remains unclear to many who work and study in the field.
Bowen family systems theory looks at how the family as an emotional unit influences individual development and relationship functioning. Although the scope of the theory extends far beyond an examination of symptoms in children, it does provide a theoretical road map to understand how some families function in ways that inadvertently contribute to limitations in their children. For the most part, these processes operate at a level outside the parents´┐Ż awareness.
Bowen family systems theory uses the term child-focus process to describe one way that family processes operate to undermine the functioning of children. The child-focus process is not one process but rather an accumulation of a certain set of conditions that can operate within a family. This paper will identify and describe the conditions that exist within a family to promote the child-focus process.