Family of Origin Assignment
The first purpose of this assignment is to increase students’ knowledge and understanding of their family of origin relationship patterns, specifically as related to the Bowen and Structural system theories. Thesecond purpose of this assignment is to increase students’ awareness and knowledge regarding key cultural and community variables that influence, and are influenced by, their family of origin perspectives, beliefs, and values. The final purpose of this assignment is for students to become more aware of how family of origin and community-cultures of origin may impede or facilitate treatment with couples and families. For example, counselors’ assumptions about the “right” way to be in a family or having rigid goals for a couple/family in crisis could be very problematic for treatment and ultimately harmful to couples/families. All system models address inadequate/ineffective family functioning and “normal” family functioning and relationship patterns. Thus, it is not assumed that your family has a hidden pathology to be discussed, but instead that you become much more aware of your family of origin influences as related to relational functioning in the Bowen model and in the Structural model. Keep in mind that family relation patterns exist at all times. In order to effectively conduct this assignment, reflect on your family of origin from the perspective of a family theorist, not as a clinician. Specific assignment questions are listed below along with suggested ways of thinking about the assignment questions. Additionally, students are offered a list of potential signs they may be “off track” with the assignment (see list below).
Family of Origin Assignment Questions
1. Evaluate the relational patterns in your family of origin, not yourself, in relation to the concept of differentiation. Your evaluation should incorporate three other related Bowenian concepts, such as emotional triangles, sibling position/birth order, multigenerational transmission process, nuclear family emotional system, family projection process, and emotional cut-off/fusion. Please note that you cannot use the concept of societal emotional process to answer this question.
Suggestions: Please note that you are not providing an exhaustive assessment of every Bowenian concept for every generation of your family. For example, a student electing to discuss triangles might identify a frequently occurring triangle (e.g., the “perfect” child, the sibling of the “troubled” child, and the father) and provide examples of how this triangle is evident across generations in one’s family.
2. Evaluate the relational patterns in your family of origin, not yourself, according to structural family theory. Your evaluation should incorporate four Structural concepts, such as subsystems, boundaries, family structure, or cross-generational coalitions. Please note that you cannot use the concept of societal structure to answer this question.
Suggestions: Remain cognizant that Structural theory, as presented in the textbook and for the purposes of this assignment, does not primarily focus on three or more family generations. Instead, Structural theory focuses more on present family structure (usually two generations, such as parent and child generations). Thus, it might be best to describe your family of origin at a particular point in time (e.g., when you were an adolescent or when you were in grades 1-2) to narrow in on the specific Structural concept as applied to your family.
3. Reflect on your family of origin, not yourself, in relation to perspectives, beliefs, and values associated with race over two-three generations. This question may be answered in relation to the race(s) in your family of origin or in relation to the concept of race as applied to those outside your family of origin. Provide two or three examples from your family of origin to answer this question.
4. Reflect on your family of origin, not yourself, in relation to perspectives, beliefs, and values related to ethnicity and culture over two-three generations. This question may include discussion of acculturation status, immigration status, and refugee status of your family of origin. Provide two or three examples from your family of origin to answer this question.
5. Reflect on your family of origin, not yourself, in relation to gender roles and expectations over two-three generations. Provide two or three examples from your family of origin to answer this question.
6. Reflect on your family of origin, not yourself, in relation to one diversity variable over two-three generations that you have not discussed in the assignment. Examples include spirituality/religion, sexual orientation and gender identity, adoption, military involvement, socioeconomic status, formal education, and health, disability or illness (physical or behavioral).
Suggestions: To answer this question, you may select a diversity variable with a positive connotation in your family (e.g., “Faith was important in our family”), a diversity variable with a negative connotation in your family (e.g., “We were always told to not join the ROTC or the military”), or a diversity variable that was relatively absent from discussions and did not carry a negative or positive connotation (e.g., “Looking back, I see that our family was upper middle class yet we never really discussed socioeconomic status and how that was different in other families”).
7. Provide a clear and specific discussion linking twofamily of origin influences with two relational assets you bring to treatment processes and two family of origin influences with two relational challenges you bring to the treatment processes. NOTE: You must also provide a brief discussion regarding how you will address one family of origin challenge.
Suggestions: To answer this question, connect your answers from other parts of the assignment and discuss the implications for being a therapist with couples and families. For example, “In discussing the triangles in my family, I see how I am the “perfect child” and that could impede my work with a family with a “troubled child.” In particular, it could lead me to over identify with the “perfect child” and lose sight of the family system and actually participate with the family in their view of the problem….The way I will be alert to this potential challenge is…”. The question may also be answered with regard to your learning from questions #3-#6 above. For example, “I realize that my family did not have a positive view of ROTC, joining the military, or planning for a career in law enforcement. I see how I might initially react to a family whose goals are just that-to join the military-and how I might diminish these deeply held values by a family. In doing so, I stay loyal to my family of origin and might not engage in ethical or effective treatment for the family. Although such career choices are important to examine across generation, it is essential that I understand and honor a family’s values while assisting them with changes and possible new directions.”
Hints to consider: Are you “off track” with the focus of the Family of Origin Assignment?
v You find yourself writing about individual pathology-the focus in the assignment is on families as a system. Although it is fine to discuss relational patterns at times of distress, it is also fine to discuss relational patterns when the family was doing well. Most importantly, the focus is on systems and not frameworks of linear causality.
v You are using terms such as “behavior” or “dysfunctional” in the assignment. Only use the terms associated with the Bowen and Structural models and do not introduce other terminology.
v You find yourself spending too much time identifying and defining the components of the theory. Although you should write a sentence or two to describe a concept such as “triangles” in the Bowen theory (and reference the textbook when doing so), the assignment is not to describe and explain the theories but instead to apply the theories to an evaluation of your family relational patterns and family functioning.
v You bring the focus into your adult life. The focus of all family of origin relationship evaluations should be during the time frame of your life at ages 0-20. Also, you are not recalling events from the perspective of a child but instead looking at family functioning with a professional lens. Only for question #7 is the focus on your life now and that focus is about implications of this assignment for your professional role as a counselor.
v You assume the role of counselor for your family. You are not the counselor for your family. Instead, you should focus on the application of Bowen and Structural theories to your family of origin.
Summary: This is a complex assignment yet manageable, and of high interest to most students. Contact your instructor with questions or concerns at any point in working on the assignment.
Your final deliverable will be a Word document, approximately 8-10 pages in length, utilizing a minimum of six scholarly references (the textbook and one article from required class readings may be utilized as two of these references). Your paper should be written in a clear, concise, and organized manner; demonstrate ethical scholarship in accurate representation and attribution of sources; and display accurate spelling, grammar, and punctuation following current APA requirements. Students are also encouraged to review and follow APA guidelines for use of unbiased language. The use of concise headers that align with APA format are required for this assignment. NOTE: As this assignment requires discussion of student’s family of origin/community of origin in all sections, the use of “I” and “my” are acceptable in areas of the assignment clearly related to student’s family of origin/community of origin.