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Platt, R. (1970). The Myth and Reality of The “Matriarch”: A Case Report in Family Therapy. Psychoanal. Rev., 57(2):203-223.

(1970). Psychoanalytic Review, 57(2):203-223

The Myth and Reality of The “Matriarch”: A Case Report in Family Therapy

Rhoda Platt, M.S.W.

This report examines six years of therapy in a family where the mother has been considered the leader, since her effect on family functioning seems dominant. Although interaction between family members and therapist is the core of the treatment process, attention is focussed on the particular problems presented by this type of “pseudo-matriarch.”

The S family was referred to the Family Mental Health Clinic for help in coming to terms with the fact that their fifteen-year-old son had low average intelligence and could not be expected to achieve the superior grades obtained by his nineteen-year-old brother, who was on scholarship at college. The referral source noted that the younger son was depressed and operating somewhat below his actual capacity because of the tense family atmosphere—an atmosphere mainly created by the mother's unrealistic expectations and unsuccessful pressures on him to do better. Mrs. S's unmarried sister was part of the household and a vigorous supporter of Mrs. S. The father, though expecting less of the younger son, was helpless in opposing the women. The family, in the middle income group, appeared comfortable. Mr. S operated a small, struggling business. His wife worked as an executive secretary.

Beginning Phase Of Treatment

The family group (exclusive of the sister, who refused to participate) was seen in weekly sessions. Mrs. S, Rose, was the spokesman.

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