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Clinical Social Work Journal

, Volume 24, Issue 3, pp 255–269 | Cite as

A role-reversal in the mother-daughter relationship

  • Roberta Kabat
Articles

Abstract

Psychoanalytic theorists have noted a particular dynamic in the mother-infant relationship in which the emotional needs of the mother predominate. When this situation occurs, the emotional needs of the infant may go unmet, resulting in impaired self-development. Through an integration of the ideas of mainstream psychoanalytic theorists and feminist psychoanalytic thinkers, this paper proposes the idea that, because of the intensity of the mother-daughter relationship, this dynamic may be more prevalent between mothers and daughters than between mothers and sons. A mother-daughter relationship is described in which the mother comes to depend on her daughter for emotional attunement and response, and the mother's selfobject needs predominate. As a consequence, the daughter is unable to develop a cohesive sense of self and experiences difficulty in achieving separation. Two clinical reports are presented to illustrate the way in which this mother-daughter dynamic manifests itself in the patient's life and in the therapeutic relationship. A negative transference dynamic is described resulting from these patient's fear of duplicating their relationship with their mothers in the therapeutic relationship by having to meet the selfobject needs of the therapist.

Key Words

mother-daughter relationship role-reversal separation-individuation negative transference 

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Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press, Inc. 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Roberta Kabat
    • 1
  1. 1.Bronx

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