Contemporary Family Therapy

, Volume 26, Issue 3, pp 319–335 | Cite as

Stress, Coping, and Differentiation of Self: A Test of Bowen Theory

  • Nancy L. Murdock
  • Paul A. GoreJr.


Differentiation of self from the family of origin is thought to be a significant factor in psychological functioning. Bowen contended that the effects of stress are moderated by differentiation of self, such that high levels of stress would have more impact on individuals lower in differentiation as compared to individuals higher in differentiation in predicting dysfunction. We tested this hypothesis and also assessed the relations among stress, coping, differentiation of self, and dysfunction. Results provided support for Bowen's prediction; differentiation indeed moderated the effects of perceived stress in predicting psychological functioning in expected ways. The interaction of differentiation of self and stress predicted variance in functioning beyond what was accounted for by coping styles, suggesting that although coping and differentiation of self are related, they are not synonymous.

differentiation of self stress coping Bowen theory 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nancy L. Murdock
    • 1
  • Paul A. GoreJr.
    • 2
  1. 1.University of Missouri-Kansas CityKansas City
  2. 2.Department of PsychologySouthern Illinois University-CarbondaleCarbondale

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