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Karush, R.K. (1992). Too Long a Child. The Mother-Daughter Dyad: By Nini Herman. London: Free Association Books, 1989. 358 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 61:486-492.

(1992). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 61:486-492

Too Long a Child. The Mother-Daughter Dyad: By Nini Herman. London: Free Association Books, 1989. 358 pp.

Review by:
Ruth K. Karush

For Nini Herman, the most significant factor in the psychic development of women is the unique quality of the relationship between mothers and daughters. She believes that psychoanalytic theory has failed to recognize just how crucial is the issue of separation within the mother-daughter dyad. From her therapeutic work with women, Herman has concluded that what holds women back in their effort to achieve equality with men lies in inner conflicts over separation which are at the core of the mother-daughter dyad. In Too Long A Child, the author traces the relationships of mothers and daughters through the ages. The book is a very scholarly and detailed history covering over ten thousand years of mother-daughter relationships as depicted in myth, fiction, letters, diaries, and case histories of women from Persephone to Sylvia Plath.

Before beginning her historical journey, Herman points out that while it has been a century since Freud introduced psychoanalytic principles, female sexuality remains a controversial, unresolved area. Freud, she says, pondered time and time again the question, "What is it that woman wants?" Herman states that the answer which emerges in the majority of cases of long-term psychotherapy is: "to be myself, to live my life as I desire, by my own personal design—without offending my mother, without antagonizing her or hurting her own views or feelings; without thereby having to make an enemy of her, because I need her as a friend, a comrade and beloved sister, as a lifelong all-in-all" (p. 6).

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