Separation, individuation in children of Nazi Holocaust survivors and its relationship to perceived parental overvaluation / by Jacob Ofman.
Recent research on children of survivors has suggested that certain aspects of their behavior and personality may be related to their parents' Holocaust experiences. It is proposed in the present study that these characteristics of children of survivors can best be understood by using separation-individuation theory which suggests that certain parental child-rearing attitudes complicate the resolution of this developmental process. This set of attitudes, called here and elsewhere, parental overvaluation, is defined as a process in which parents attempt to predetermine their childrens' behavior, goals, values, and purpose in life, based on their own unmet, often unconscious, needs. It is proposed that this is manifest in extreme overinvolvement in many aspects of their children's lives. The present study compares a group of 49 children of survivors with a group of 58 Jewish offspring of American-born parents in four areas of personality functioning presumed to be related to the separation-individuation process: autonomy, interpersonal boundary differentiation, dominance, and locus of control. Furthermore, within each group, this study examines the relationship between perceived parental overvaluation and each of these four areas. Results indicated that, as predicted, female children of survivors scored significantly lower than all other participants on S-I autonomy and dominance, and significantly higher on external locus of control and mother overvaluation than other groups in this study. Contrary to predictions, female children of survivors scored significantly higher than all other groups in Self Global, and significantly higher than male children of survivors on Self I, Family I, and Family Global. For children of survivors, mother overvaluation correlated positively and significantly with Family I and Family Global, while father overvaluation correlated positively and significantly with Self Global. All these correlations for children of survivors were in the opposite direction from that predicted, unlike significant correlations for the comparison group which all occurred in the predicted direction. These results suggest that female children of survivors have significantly better interpersonal boundary differentiation than other groups in this study, and that as parental overvaluation for all children of survivors increases, so does the level of interpersonal boundary differentiation. These findings are not readily consonant with the traditional interpretation of separation-individuation theory.
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