Encyclopedia of Couple and Family Therapy

2019 Edition
| Editors: Jay L. Lebow, Anthony L. Chambers, Douglas C. Breunlin

Emotional Cutoff in Bowen Family Systems Theory

  • Judy HaefnerEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-49425-8_261


How does it happen that family members can go years without any communication between them? While an occasional holiday card might be exchanged, person-to-person contact does not occur. In many instances, all contact is lost not only with extended family but nuclear family. In family counseling persons will say, “I haven’t spoken to my father in 20 years. He remarried and moved to Colorado and started a new family.” Growing up, there was no contact with certain aunts or uncles. They were mysterious, never spoken about, and somehow forbidden.

Theoretical Context for Concept

Emotional cutoff is one concept in Bowen’s family theory, which consists of a system of eight interlocking states that describe the inevitable chronic emotional anxiety present in family relationships and concludes that chronic anxiety is the source of family dysfunction. The emotional dysfunction of an individual disturbs all of that person’s relationship systems, especially the family system (Bowen 1978...

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Michigan FlintFlintUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Molly Gasbarrini
    • 1
  1. 1.California School of Professional Psychology, Alliant International UniversityLos AngelesUSA