The Biobehavioral Family Model: An Evidence-Based Approach to Biopsychosocial Research, Residency Training, and Patient Care

Beatrice L. Wood, Sarah B. Woods, Sourav Sengupta, Turya Nair

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Engel's biopsychosocial model, based in systems theory, assumes the reciprocal influence of biological, psychological, and social factors on one another and on mental and physical health. However, the model's application to scientific study is limited by its lack of specificity, thus constraining its implementation in training and healthcare environments. The Biobehavioral Family Model (BBFM) is one model that can facilitate specification and integration of biopsychosocial conceptualization and treatment of illness. The model identifies specific pathways by which family relationships (i.e., family emotional climate) impact disease activity, through psychobiological mechanisms (i.e., biobehavioral reactivity). Furthermore, it is capable of identifying positive and negative effects of family process in the same model, and can be applied across cultural contexts. The BBFM has been applied to the study of child health outcomes, including pediatric asthma, and adult health, including for underserved primary care patients, minoritized samples, and persons with chronic pain, for example. The BBFM also serves as a guide for training and clinical practice; two such applications are presented, including the use of the BBFM in family medicine residency and child and adolescent psychiatry fellowship programs. Specific teaching and clinical approaches derived from the BBFM are described in both contexts, including the use of didactic lecture, patient interview guides, assessment protocol, and family-oriented care. Future directions for the application of the BBFM include incorporating temporal dynamics and developmental trajectories in the model, extending testable theory of family and individual resilience, examining causes of health disparities, and developing family-based prevention and intervention efforts to ameliorate contributing factors to disease. Ultimately, research and successful applications of the BBFM could inform policy to improve the lives of families, and provide additional support for the value of a biopsychosocial approach to medicine.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number725045
JournalFrontiers in Psychiatry
StatePublished - Oct 5 2021


  • biobehavioral model
  • biopsychosocial model
  • child psychiatry
  • family practice
  • family relations
  • graduate medical education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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