The family system theory is a knowledge base collected and compiled on observations of counselors and psychologists of their interactions with families and individuals in particular. The basic pillar of the theory is that a family is a ‘system’. A member cannot be understood as an individual. The whole family system has to be taken into perspective. All the members or individuals are dependent on each other. All are related to each other. Hence an individual cannot be analyzed alone but the whole system has to be understood.

The Bowen family systems theory identifies the family as a closed group and calls it an emotional unit. When we are talking about interconnection, it is emotional interconnection. All members are emotionally interconnected. The reason for this theory is that in a family each individual affects the thoughts, actions, emotions of the family tremendously. Bowen expressed this that the family members live under the same ‘emotional skin’.

Now, let us understand the basic of this theory that what does it mean when we call the family as a ‘system’. For example, consider the usual electronic system of machines. When you affect any particular machine in the system, the whole system gets affected. Thus the individual machines do not exist in isolation but they are all inter-depended.

This theory has certain predefined terms coined. These terms are

1> Family roles.
2> Family rules.
3> Homeostasis / equilibrium.

A family role is a role for each member of the family. These are the expectations of the family members. In basic, the roles may be broadly classified as ‘father’, ‘mother’, ‘sister’, ‘brother’ etc. However finer classification is something like ‘the responsible one’, ‘the emotional one’. Even these are roles of the members and they give the characteristics to the family system. Family rules are the rules of operation of the family. Many times all these rules are not spoken or laid out, but are known well to the members. Some examples may be, like what liberties the children have. What kind of relationship and respect the mother, father expects from their children. These are patterns and are unspoken regulations of a family system. Homeostasis can be explained as the equilibrium conditions of the family. It may be called as the tendency of a system to keep things as they are and not let any force change the course of the system. There is an internal force from the system on its members to keep things as they are, to prevent change. Each family system has patterns. The family runs along these patterns. These are unspoken and undefined patterns, they just exist amongst the members. These patterns are formed due to the above three terms, roles, rules and equilibrium. The family pattern runs according to these three defining conditions. Often the roles of the members are related to each other. Lets us take an example to understand this better. In a family, consider two people. One of them needs closeness in a relationship. On the contrary the other wants distance and space in his relationship. This is a pattern and it affects the running of the family. The above pattern may exist in husband-wife or even parents-children or siblings. Now in this case, the one who needs closeness tries to be close with the other. At the same time, the other who needs space tries to distance himself. Thus the one who needs closeness gets offended and his need for someone rises. He tries again and again the other increases the distance. Thus this is a cycle in the family system pattern. This is what the family system theory is about.

This theory has a lot of importance and is widely used in various situations as it provides the information about the emotional system runs in a family environment or even work places and social systems. It provides effective solutions for solving problems in such circumstances.