Separation-individuation and intimate relationships in adult children of Holocaust survivors / by Kirsten M. Miley.
Mahler, Pine, and Bergman (1975) described a child's developmental need to separate and individuate from their caregivers in order for the child to establish an individualized sense of self and relationship with the world. The task of separation and individuation includes the achievement of independent functioning in the presence of and with emotional availability of the parent. However, if the caregiver has difficulty providing “good enough” parenting along with the child's changing needs, then the ability for true intimate relationships with self and others maybe thwarted (Winnicott, 1969). Previous studies that have examined the effects of the Holocaust have concluded that the Holocaust survivor's trauma impacts their children who did not directly witness the Holocaust. The present study examined the outcomes for Holocaust survivor parents who may have had difficulty being emotionally available and adapting to their child's growing needs. The result was expected to be inhibition of the parent-child separation-individuation process and of the capacity for later intimate adult relationships in their children. The present study examined 33 Holocaust survivors' offspring and their capacity to form intimate relationship, using the Parent Bonding Instrument (Parker, Tupling, and Brown, 1979), the Dyadic Adjustment Scale (Spanier 1976), Parental Relationship Inventory (Silver Stutman & Lich, 1985), and the Inventory of Interpersonal Problems-Circumplex (Horowitz, Weckler, & Doren, 1983). The significant results of the present study suggest that participants, whose parents suffered greater loss of family members, more severe Holocaust experience, and greater perceived past involvement in their children's lives, experienced a greatly diminished ability to achieve viable and healthy interpersonal relationships with others; such offspring were more socially inhibited, nonassertive, and intrusively needy in relationships than offspring whose parents had endured less severe Holocaust experience. The present study did not demonstrate significant support for the hypothesis that subjects whose parents had greater Holocaust involvement and whose parents lost more relatives were more likely than other subjects to have less satisfying intimate relationships. In addition, the present study did not find a significant relationship between the current over involvement of the Holocaust survivor parents in their children's lives and the degree of difficulty with interpersonal relationships of the child. Taken together the Holocaust survivors' experience, number of family members lost during the Holocaust, and parents' perceived past involvement in their children's lives predict more difficulty with healthy interpersonal relationships.
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