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Meisel, F. (1989). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child. XL, 1985: The Effect of Role Reversal on Delayed Marriage and Maternity. Maria V. Bergmann. Pp. 197-219.. Psychoanal Q., 58:167.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Psychoanalytic Study of the Child. XL, 1985: The Effect of Role Reversal on Delayed Marriage and Maternity. Maria V. Bergmann. Pp. 197-219.

(1989). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 58:167

Psychoanalytic Study of the Child. XL, 1985: The Effect of Role Reversal on Delayed Marriage and Maternity. Maria V. Bergmann. Pp. 197-219.

Frederick Meisel

This paper is based on the analyses of six women with common features: failure to outgrow their symbiosis, role reversal of mother and daughter, and the father's seductive relationship with them. Bergmann suggests that these characteristics constitute a "central psychic constellation." She found that these women wish for a symbiotic relationship and therefore erect "strong defenses against fears of reengulfment by the mother" and fears of abandonment by either parent. Role reversal was a genetic turning point for these patients: the "mothers' neediness forced [them] to alleviate the mothers' distress—by attempting to mother their mothers," and often younger siblings too. The fathers were frequently absent. Often anxious, depressed, or withdrawn, the mothers would make explicit demands, confide in the girl as though she were an adult, or show unreasonable expectations. The child's consequent rage led to regressions, transitory loss of differentiation from the mother as caregiver, and "disturbance in the cohesiveness of the child's developing self representation and self constancy." The use of role reversal as a defensive substitute for separation-individuation allowed the child to feel less threatened, as she was needed and was a "mother" herself, but at the price of a "lost sense of a carefree childhood" and a sense of enslavement. Bergmann also explores the father's role and relates the women's desire for children to the "heightened incestuous guilt which emanated from the unmarried state and … the tie to the father. Early and eroticized attachment to the father interfered with the normal separation-individuation. The pain and disappointment of the girl's oedipal feelings for the father were denied in her idealization of him. Bergmann goes on to describe the normal integration of body image and pregenital concerns, which depends on the successful identification with the parent of the same sex. In these patients, however, "the mother's unresponsiveness to [their] feminine and bisexual tendencies … [left] the girl with a sense of feminine identity that was infirm." Separation could never take place fully, and every man was an incestuous object, every woman a potential mother.

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Article Citation [Who Cited This?]

Meisel, F. (1989). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child. XL, 1985. Psychoanal. Q., 58:167

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