Families Matter

Why Societal Origin and Family Structures
Are Important


Mother with Daughter

We know of no agrarian, preindustrial economy that favors individuation for the mass of its members.

Positions on the group-individual continuum of personal boundaries and tribalism can be affected societally by suddenly imposed but long lasting multi-generation societal calamity; stress such as war-invasion-occupation, civil war, communal long- lasting poverty and economic depression. It is also affected by more permanent factors such as the nature of the macro-economy.

An agrarian, rural village, peasant economy will be more local and tribal even in the industrial Anglosphere and an industrial urban economy will be less tribal even in southeastern Europe. Industrialization produces urban centers which require more demographic density and more constant "stranger contact" and interaction; tribal boundaries need to adjust from black-white , in or out, to grey and eventually an integration.

Adapting away from our fused pack roots has contributed directly to the material success of industrialized economies.


As an example of the present non-integration of the social sciences, we note that this clearly family-political-economic pattern has also been presented and studied but not acknowledged in the fields of western psychology, psychotherapy and human development.

The psychological process of individuation has been widely described as the "developing" and "the separated self" and is increasingly taken as evidence of "mental health". In fact the American and British professional psychiatric literature calls this developmental process "individuation" and posits it as necessary for "healthy relationships." (Bowlby, Winnicott, Mahler, Fairbairn, Spock, Bowen). Their emphasis on developmental stages of separation may be true clinically, but different societal values will be shown to influence these processes.

Even Bowen’s theorizing may have been influenced by his family’s Protestant, northern European, pre-revolutionary “individualized” societal roots in a small Tennessee town.

Discussing Bowen’s view of mental health or disorder in families, Mary Sykes Wylie states:

"In spite of what Bowen called the "flow and counter flow" within the triangles, the members of these families experienced very little sense of freedom and independence. Indeed, there was an almost glue-like quality about these family conglomerates that was, to Bowen, practically a definition of their problem. The less the dysfunctional child was able to separate from her mother—to "differentiate" herself from what he called the "undifferentiated family ego mass"—the less capable she was of independent, adult behavior, and the "crazier" she became. He found this same process true, though less marked, in healthier families as well."

Should we assume, do the facts confirm, that this outlook is valid in the tribal majority of humans and societies on earth?

A post-industrial society will not usually reward a tribal outlook and certainly a tribal society will not reward an emancipated individualistic "separated" way of life or thought for its members. The consequences for such inappropriate thought and behavior in both cases is often called "anxiety" (and sometimes “death”).

In sum, the economic, political and psychological fields have studied variations on the theme of fusion tribalist (enmeshed, merged) vs tribal individualist (rule of law, protection of individual rights, adult emancipation). In spite of clear similarities in vocabulary and even content these findings have yet to be combined and integrated. One of our goals is to point out the very real benefits of such articulated integration.

In the spiritual realm within the Protestant Reformation, Sufi, and some western Jewish writers such as Maimonides and Buber, the relationship between God and man is considered a one-to-one, individualized, less ritualized affair – as opposed to the Latin and other Southern/Eastern traditions which hold individuals subservient to, and merged with, the religious body functioning as divine ritual interlocutor, or pack leader.

Again, in spite of their "on their face" terminology and conceptual connectedness, to date we know of no attempts to integrate these segregated fields (macroeconomics, sociology, political science, developmental psychology, psychiatry, family therapy and tribalism) and these broadly diverse areas of study.

Nevertheless, in most contemporary societies, the merged-pack impulse collides at some level with the emergence of industrialization and public education. Tension between the "individuated" and "pack-fused" models persist most dramatically in cultures newly or continuously dealing with the transition to industrial or post-industrial development such as Ukraine, Poland and other Balkan and eastern European states. Economic organization is in turn influenced by the struggle between individualistic and fusionist conceptions of self, family, immediate in-group, religion and political society.

We contend that these very different conceptions, mediated over generations through family transmission, are traceable to well known historical experiences.

Mother with Daughter