Pair-Bond Events and New Data Model added to Family Diagram

A major update to Family Diagram has been released in version 1.2.0. Along with important new features, this version is also the first official Windows release.

Pair-Bond Events

This update marks the first major change to the basic structure of how information is stored in Family Diagram. That is the addition of adding timeline events directly to a Pair-Bond. Before this update it was only possible to add timeline events to individual people.

These sorts of changes have to be made with great care. Any change has to be consistent with theory to avoid erosion of the purpose and precision of the app. Before now, it was at least clear that shifts in the family system occurred in individuals, but in reciprocal relation to shifts in others in the family. It was simple enough to track factual events as something that pertained to individuals, like a shift in a symptom or a dream or a move to define self.

It is also clear that more than one person are very often involved in a single event. A car accident, an incident at a wedding, or a hurricane can all involve multiple people. Simply accommodating this fact by associating a single event with a list of people has no particular meaning in Bowen theory. If there is no theoretical meaning, then there is no reason to record it as such and the entire diagram slowly loses its meaning, much like occurred with the genogram.

However, there is a theoretical basis for adding events to a Pair-Bond. That is, any event implicated in nuclear family emotional process is a Pair-Bond event. This theoretical basis slowly emerged when I noticed a pattern in what I was typing into the notes of Pair-Bonds: Anything having to do with the management of tension between the spouses, and that may impact the development of functional sibling position.

It is possible to add arbitrary events like when a house was purchased or a the first coaching session occurred. There are also a number of built-in events that are visually represented on the diagram. The built-in pair-bond events are “bonded,” “married,” “separated,” “divorced,” and “moved.” Each event may now be added any number of times. For convenience, the “married,” “separated,” and “divorced” checkboxes have also been renamed to indicate that these events occurred on the diagram before a specific dated event can be added.

I coined the term “Bonded” as a built-in pair-bond event to mark the beginning of the pair-bond. In practice, I often use this to simply mark the first time they met. But technically this refers to when the bond in pair-bond was formed. It is a fact that a pair-bond is formed, but I encourage theoretical debate on exactly when a pair-bond is formed. This ought to have a clear theoretical definition. One possibility is when sexual intercourse first occurs, although that would not account for asexual pair-bonds which do not become mating-pairs. All of these are biological terms and an effort is made to remain rooted in viewing the human as a product of biology.

Show Notes in Items

One very useful feature, also covered in an article on tips for using Family Diagram in session, is showing which items on the diagram have notes added to them. This keyboard shortcut (Ctrl-Shift-N) comes in handy when in session with clients or during case presentations. The timeline will always show which events have notes in them. This is very helpful when walking someone through a timeline and watching to drill down into the event to get more information, then drill back out to continue the presentation on the timeline.

Stop On All Events

This is more of a bug fix than a feature. The next event & previous event buttons keyboard shortcuts (Ctrl-Shift-{, Ctrl-Shift-}) will now stop on all on the diagram, though only when the timeline is shown. Previously, only events that had some visual representation on the diagram would be stopped on.

As you move through the timeline with next event & previous event, the event(s) for the currently shown date are outlined in the timeline. this helps to locate what is currently shown and talked about. It turns out this is all essential when walking through a timeline.

When the timeline is hidden, next event & previous event work as before by skipping over events that don’t have an explicit visual representation on the diagram. This is because it is too confusing for the timeline to stop on a date with no indication as to why.

Stinson Data Model

A new data model has been added to the list of templates in diagram settings. Previous data models were the Papero model, and Havstad model. The Stinson data model introduces a novel, formal definition of the toward or away move as the “atomic operation” of emotional process. The goal of the data model is to 1) define objective observables, 2) that do not require experts in Bowen Theory or “clinical experience” to observe, and 3) that can scale to inform a machine learning model of family emotional process, in order to test Bowen Theory itself.

I initially added the “toward” and “away” emotional process symbols to Family Diagram a few years ago, long before its initial release. The coining of these terms is now the foundation of the Stinson data model. The theoretical basis was that they represent the inside and outside position of a triangle. So far, they are synonymous with approach and avoid.

There was no precedent for this on the family diagram concept by Murray Bowen or anyone in the Bowen Network so far as I was aware. Today, the data model defines these as atomic moves that may or may not give rise to triangles, but hypothetically will always give rise to triangles given sufficient anxiety. A triangle is then defined as a single move by a single person that simultaneously moves toward one and away another. An ideal system is comprised of toward and away moves between individuals which do not spill out into triangles.

It is not yet clear exactly how the older emotional process symbols relate to what is tracked in the Stinson model. I am certainly using the symbols very often in session to depict a mutual inside or outside position. That is not synonymous with a toward move as a “bid” for an inside position of a triangle that is met by the other person with the two alternatives: differentiation or an away move. This is something I encourage theoretical debate on and will be watching myself.

You can read more about the Stinson Data model in the article Defining a Machine Learning Data Model for Emotional Process.

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