Transgenerational therapies stress the importance of family relational patterns over time. These theories are based on the research and studies of figures such as Murray Bowen, Ivan Boszormenyi-Nagy, Carl Whitaker and Norman Paul. The patterns studied consist of both behavioral and interactional patterns formed during periods of family disorder. In the view of the transgenerational model, family process feeds forward in a chronological manner from emotionally significant events in the lives of great grandparents through to grandparents, parents, and finally reaching the children.
This comes about through differences in attachment, management of power and intimacy, in conflicts, and other relational events (Dattilio, 1998). Murray Bowen is the chief developer of family therapy. He is the developer of the family systems theory. The family systems theory abstracted the family as one emotional unit of interlocking relationships who are best understood when analyzed within a multigenerational structure. Bowen’s theory of family consists of eight interlocking concepts. Six of the eight concepts talk about the emotional processes that take place in the nuclear and extended families.
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The other two concepts speak about emotional processes across generations in a family and society. The eight forces that shape family functioning include: 1) differentiation of self, 2) triangles, 3) nuclear family emotional system, 4) family projection process, 5) emotional cutoff, 6) multigenerational transmission process, 7) sibling position, and 8) societal regression (Goldenberg & Goldenberg, 2013). The Walls family from the book, The Glass Castle, written by Jeannette Walls, can greatly compare to the transgenerational theory and its eight concepts.
I will discuss a few that stood out to me in the book. In differentiation of self, I could easily compare this to Jeannette. Differentiation of self is confirmed by the extent to which one can think, plan, and their values mostly around anxiety-provoking issues and without having their behaviors motivated by emotional cues from others (Goldenberg & Goldenberg, 2013). Even though forced to grow up quickly, Jeannette’s experiences allowed her to become more independent and want to do better for herself. The concept of the triangle can definitely be applied to the Walls amily as a whole. The triangle is defined as the basic building block in a family’s emotional or relational system (Goldenberg & Goldenberg, 2013). Rex and Mary Walls are the identified persons to pinpoint for the turmoil their children endured growing up. The course text states that “during times when anxiety is low and outside conditions are tranquil, the dyad system may take part in comfortable back-and-forth exchange of feelings. However, the stability of the situation can take a sudden change for the worse if a participant gets upset or anxious.
This can be compared to when Mary Charlene died, marking the beginning of Rex’s drinking and not being able to hold down a job. The mere mentioning of her name bothers him. As for sibling position, Walter Toman hypothesized that children develop certain fixed personality characteristics based on their birth order. Self-reliance and leadership skills are subject to influences of sibling position also. Brian Walls is the only boy, even though he is not the oldest, he tends to be the protector of his sisters.
For example, when a man sneaks into Jeannette’s room and begins touching her, her screams startle Brian and he comes to her rescue with a hatchet. The two then begin what they call “pervert hunting”, searching the streets for men who prey on children. In conclusion, the transgenerational theory deals with the rules which mold the communication of acquired practices, behaviors and beliefs between generations. Individuals react to others and this interaction is determined by acquired and inherited traits of those around him/her. We learn to do by watching others.