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Werner, H.G. (1983). The Sibling Bond. Stephen P. Bank and Michael D. Kahn. New York: Basic Books, 1982. 363 pp.. Psychoanal. Rev., 70(4):630-632.

(1983). Psychoanalytic Review, 70(4):630-632

The Sibling Bond. Stephen P. Bank and Michael D. Kahn. New York: Basic Books, 1982. 363 pp.

Review by:
Harriet G. Werner

It has been said, with good reason, that great writers know the human heart while therapists learn about the human heart. Great writers know the hearts of parents, children, and siblings. Therapists learn about the parent-child tie. They also learn about sibling rivalry issues in childhood and the parental hinge for this rivalry. But the permutations and combinations of the relationships between siblings as they endure through and affect adult experience has received little attention in our clinical literature and training.

With the publication of The Sibling Bond by Stephen P. Bank and Michael D. Kahn, we now have the first major volume in our field that addresses itself to one of our most fundamental bonding experiences. Their work is a comprehensive, integrative, contribution to our clinical education and efficacy.

With a clarity and even-handedness that is characteristic of this entire volume, the authors examine Freud's germinal thoughts on maternal and oedipal exigencies in the shaping of our development, as well as how Freud's thoughts have dominated the history of analytic theory in its exclusion of sibling bonding as an area of concern. The authors also understand the weight of Western culture in development, with its rites of passage for parents and children, husband and wife. They note that our culture possesses no celebratory rites for sibling bonds. Nor do we have any cultural or legal means to make or break sibling bonds. Given this theoretical and cultural lacunae, the authors tell us that “in the emotional, and largely irrational realm of sibling relations we felt as if we were in a foreign country without a map.” Powered by their wish to understand this largely unknown human territory, they collected notes whenever a patient described a sibling issue. Out of 250 high interest cases, they selected about 100 patients, accumulated taped sessions with them, and then studied the verbatim accounts. In reclaiming and, yes, insisting on the inclusion of the sibling bond as one of our vital clinical concerns, the authors wore many hats as they listened to their data. They were “field investigators, psychodynamically oriented therapists, family systems researchers, historians, and, at times, investigative reporters.” Their psychodynamic orientation was an eclectic one, reflecting their understanding of and interest in attachment and object relations theory, and self psychology theory.

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