Family Diagram app is one step in a long-term vision for a viable science of human behavior. A viable science of human behavior would be one that contains an integrative theory which organizes all factual observations into a single frame of reference that predicts behavior. Such a science does not yet exist.

Bowen theory is one effort to develop such an integrative, predictive theory. The theory itself rests on the axiom that how a person understands a problem determines what they will do to solve it. Naturally, the match of that understanding to the reality of the problem determines the efficacy of the solution. Therefore, the application of Bowen theory looks like something of an effort to understand the problem at hand rather than to simply change it.

A science of human behavior requires predictive models based on a theory which describes human behavior. Predictive models require objective data to be organized systematically. Conventional psychological models rely on self-report about ideas rooted in subjectivity. Therefore, psychological ideas tend to be based more on what people say they do rather than what they actually do. An accepted science of human behavior requires models based on what people actually do.

Most “theories” about human behavior have more to do with changing behaviors than simply describing and predicting them. Any theory that organizes an accepted science must exist separately from efforts to apply the theory. Most “theories” of human behavior have more to do with changing behavior than predicting it. There are “theories” for creating a certain professional culture, or “theories” for converting negative feelings into positive feelings. These “theories” are not scientific if they cannot produce testable predictions prior to actually taking action. If this were the case in Physics, it would be like only being able to answer a question about where a ballistic missile or will land by first shooting the missile. Such a theory would not be scientific. This is how a science of human behavior does not currently exist.

Bowen theory was based on factual observations about how families adapt to stress. The theory itself is not fact, but it is based on factual observations of what people did under specified conditions versus what those people said they did. Bowen theory proposes that human behavior is not substantially predictable at the level of the individual, but at the level of the human group. In other words, trying to predict an individual human’s behavior without observing them in the group is like trying to predict the movement of a flower without observing the wind. A person’s behavior is most predictable in the human group with the highest instinctual interdependence: the family.

As stated, a science of human behavior requires predictive models based on a theory which describes human behavior. Predictive models require factual data to be organized systematically. Family Diagram is one effort to systematically organize data pertaining to the human family under meaningful conditions: as it adapts to stress.

For decades, a family diagram has made it possible for one person to record simple facts about a family’s response to stress. Often such a diagram could be used to communicate these facts to another person. Much of the information in the diagram is factual, such as biological relations, birth dates, moves, cutoffs, etc. Some symbols are theoretical interpretations of the facts, such as when used to indicate a basic pattern such as conflict, distance, projection, etc.

The long-term vision of Family Diagram is to develop new symbols appropriate for the recording of objective facts in a scientific data model. These symbols would be collected for many families over long periods of time. This would inform a data model appropriate for understanding emotional systems. A data model of an emotional systems has a very particular set of characteristics, as defined here: Some Guidelines for Systems Models. that is only beginning to emerge in the quantitative end of Biology. Such a formal data model has never been developed for a human emotional system.

In the longest term, data from many families using Family Diagram would be aggregated into a database of family functioning that could put Bowen theory to the test. Bowen observed that systems coaches who challenge their assumptions by collecting and organizing facts about the families that they see tend to be more effective. Family Diagram is designed to simultaneously aid the systems coach in their professional work while pushing the theoretical envelope essential for a science of human behavior.