作者: bowen / 15613次阅读 时间: 2011年1月29日

Sibling Position同胞兄弟姐妹的地位

Bowen theory incorporates the research of psychologistWalter Toman as a foundation for its concept of siblingposition. Bowen observed the impact of sibling position ondevelopment and behavior in his family research. However,he found Toman's work so thorough and consistent with hisideas that he incorporated it into his theory.The basic idea is that people who grow up in the samesibling position predictably have important commoncharacteristics. For example, oldest children tend togravitate to leadership positions and youngest childrenoften prefer to be followers. The characteristics of oneposition are not "better" than those of another position,but are complementary. For example, a boss who is anoldest child may work unusually well with a first assistantwho is a youngest child. Youngest children may like to bein charge, but their leadership style typically differsfrom an oldest's style.

Toman's research showed that spouses' sibling positionsaffect the chance of their divorcing. For example, if anolder brother of a younger sister marries a younger sisterof an older brother, less chance of a divorce exists thanif an older brother of a brother marries an older sister ofa sister. The sibling or rank positions are complementaryin the first case and each spouse is familiar with livingwith someone of the opposite sex. In the second case,however, the rank positions are not complementary andneither spouse grew up with a member of the opposite sex.An older brother of a brother and an older sister of asister are prone to battle over who is in charge; twoyoungest children are prone to struggle over who gets tolean on whom.

People in the same sibling position, of course, exhibitmarked differences in functioning. The concept ofdifferentiation can explain some of the differences. Forexample, rather than being comfortable with responsibilityand leadership, an oldest child who is anxiously focused onmay grow up to be markedly indecisive and highly reactiveto expectations. Consequently, his younger brother maybecome a "functional oldest," filling a void in the familysystem. He is the chronologically younger child, butdevelops more characteristics of an oldest child than hisolder brother. A youngest child who is anxiously focusedon may become an unusually helpless and demanding person.In contrast, two mature youngest children may cooperateextremely effectively in a marriage and be at very low riskfor a divorce.

Middle children exhibit the functional characteristics oftwo sibling positions. For example, if a girl has an olderbrother and a younger sister, she usually has some of thecharacteristics of both a younger sister of a brother andan older sister of a sister. The sibling positions of aperson's parents are also important to consider. An oldestchild whose parents are both youngests encounters adifferent set of parental expectations than an oldest childwhose parents are both oldests.


Knowledge of Michael and Martha's sibling positions andthose of their parents adds to the understanding of howthings played out in their lives. Martha is the youngestof three girls and was the most intensely focused on childin her family. Furthermore, Martha's mother is the oldestof four siblings and was raised in a family with a motherwho was a chronic invalid. Martha's mother was a not verywell differentiated oldest daughter. Her life energyfocused on taking care of and directing others to the pointthat she unwittingly undermined the functioning of heryoungest daughter. Martha played out the opposite side ofthe problem by becoming an indecisive, helpless, and mostlyself-blaming person. Martha's father was the youngestbrother in a family of five children.

[Analysis: Martha, by virtue of her mother's focus on her,has the moderately exaggerated traits of a youngest child.Furthermore, her father being a youngest and her mother anoldest favored her mother's functioning setting the tone inthe family. In other words, her mother was quicker to actthan her father in face of problems.]

Michael is an only child who, like Martha's mother, wasraised in a family with a mother who had many problems.Michael's father is the younger brother of a sister and hismother is the older sister of a brother. Michael's motherwas the more focused on child when she was growing up, afocus that took the form of high performance expectationscoupled with considerable family anxiety about her abilityto meet those expectations. In many ways, Michael's fatherwas quite dependent on his wife for affirmation anddirection, even when she was depressed and overwhelmed. Asan only child, the pattern of functioning of the trianglewith his parents was the major influence on Michael'sdevelopment. His emotional programming in that trianglemade him a perfect fit with Martha.

[Analysis: Michael's only child position makes him asomewhat reluctant leader in his nuclear family. He wantsMartha to function better and to take more responsibility.He is unhappy feeling the pressure himself. Despite beingin the one-up position in the marriage, he is as dependenton Martha as his father was dependent on his wife.]

Societal Emotional Process社会情绪推行

Each concept in Bowen theory applies to nonfamily groups,such as work and social organizations. The concept ofsocietal emotional process describes how the emotionalsystem governs behavior on a societal level, promoting bothprogressive and regressive periods in a society. Culturalforces are important in how a society functions but areinsufficient for explaining the ebb and flow in how wellsocieties adapt to the challenges that face them.Bowen's first clue about parallels between familial andsocietal emotional functioning came from treating familieswith juvenile delinquents. The parents in such familiesgive the message, "We love you no matter what you do."Despite impassioned lectures about responsibility andsometimes harsh punishments, the parents give in to thechild more than they hold the line. The child rebelsagainst the parents and is adept at sensing the uncertaintyof their positions. The child feels controlled and lies toget around the parents. He is indifferent to theirpunishments. The parents try to control the child but arelargely ineffectual.

Bowen discovered that during the 1960s the courts becamemore like the parents of delinquents. Many in the juvenilecourt system considered the delinquent as a victim of badparents. They tried to understand him and often reducedthe consequences of his actions in the hope of effecting achange in his behavior. If the delinquent became afrequent offender, the legal system, much like the parents,expressed its disappointment and imposed harsh penalties.This recognition of a change in one societal institutionled Bowen to notice that similar changes were occurring inother institutions, such as in schools and governments.The downward spiral in families dealing with delinquency isan anxiety-driven regression in functioning. In aregression, people act to relieve the anxiety of the momentrather than act on principle and a long-term view. Aregressive pattern began unfolding in society after WorldWar II. It worsened some during the 1950s and rapidlyintensified during the 1960s. The "symptoms" of societalregression include a growth of crime and violence, anincreasing divorce rate, a more litigious attitude, agreater polarization between racial groups, less principleddecision-making by leaders, the drug abuse epidemic, anincrease in bankruptcy, and a focus on rights overresponsibilities.

Human societies undergo periods of regression andprogression in their history. The current regression seemsrelated to factors such as the population explosion, asense of diminishing frontiers, and the depletion ofnatural resources. Bowen predicted that the currentregression would, like a family in a regression, continueuntil the repercussions stemming from taking the easy wayout on tough issues exceeded the pain associated withacting on a long-term view. He predicted that will occurbefore the middle of the twenty-first century and shouldresult in human beings living in more harmony with nature.


It is more difficult for families to raise children in aperiod of societal regression than in a calmer period. Aloosening of standards in society makes it more difficultfor less differentiated parents like Michael and Martha tohold a line with their children. The grade inflation inmany school systems makes it easier for students to passgrades with less work. In the litigious climate, ifschools try to hold the line on what they can realisticallydo for their students, they often face lawsuits from irateparents. The prevalence of drug and alcohol abuse givesparents more things to worry about with their adolescents.The current societal regression is characterized by anincreased child focus in the culture. Much anxiety existsabout the future generation. Parents are criticized forbeing too busy with their own pursuits to be adequatelyavailable to their children, both to support them and tomonitor their activities. When children like Amy reportthat they feel distant from their parents and alienatedfrom their values, the parents' critics fail to appreciatethe emotional intensity that generates such alienation.The critics prod the parents to do more of what they havealready been doing.

People who advocate more focus on the children cite themany problems young people are having as justification fortheir position. Using the child's problems asjustification for increasing the focus on them is preciselywhat the child focused parents have been doing all along.An increase in the problems young people are having is partof an emotional process in society as a whole. A moreconstructive direction would be for people to examine theirown contributions to societal regression and to work onthemselves rather than focus on improving the futuregeneration.

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