Encyclopedia of Couple and Family Therapy

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

Fusion in Family Systems Theory

  • Jarodd W. HundleyEmail author
  • Stephen May
  • Ruoxi Chen
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-49425-8_276

Name of Concept

Fusion in family systems theory


Fusion, a concept rooted in Bowen’s family systems theory, is most closely linked to the concept of differentiation. Fusion tends to occur when poorly differentiated individuals enter into a relationship together, who may have difficulty separating their thoughts from feelings, and their own thoughts and feelings from those of others (Nichols and Schwartz 1995). Fusion may also occur intergenerationally, between parents (or caregivers) and children.

Theoretical Context

Bowen’s family systems theory addresses multigenerational emotional conflicts and anxiety, proposing that high levels of fusion are connected with family members’ poorly developed individuality (Kerr and Bowen 1988). Such individuals may demonstrate high levels of emotional reactivity, often manifested as emotional fusion or cutoff, which are both problematic relationship patterns.


Too much togetherness in the relationship context breeds fusion....

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  1. Kerr, M. E., & Bowen, M. (1988). Family evaluation: An approach based on Bowen theory. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
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  4. Spencer, B., & Brown, J. (2007). Fusion or internalized homophobia? A pilot study of Bowen's differentiation of self hypothesis with lesbian couples. Family Process, 46, 257–268.PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Marriage and Family Therapy and Counseling Studies, University of Louisiana at MonroeMonroeUSA
  2. 2.University of Louisiana at MonroeMonroeUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • David Kearns
    • 1
  1. 1.Iowa CityUSA