When children are not taught healthy self-management skills, proper boundary management, how to get their needs met in a healthy way, how to think independently and make valid interpretations about what is happening to them, or how to express their emotions in a healthy way, they many times develop dysfunctional coping skills which they carry forward into their adult lives.
Then, when they have children, not having addressed or corrected their unhealthy thinking or behavior(s) that they grew up with, they, in turn, pass on this distorted view of the world to yet another generation. The problem is that all too often, children such as myself, pay the heavy price of emotional, physical, mental and sexual abuse.
There are certain dynamics that play themselves out over and over again in abusive, and in particular, incestuous homes. Think about these three scenarios and see how familiar they are to either people you have met or people in your own families.
- A strong, domineering woman marries a dependent, inadequate man. He doesn’t have much authority in the family. She may even act like he is one of the children. After awhile, she no longer seeks out sexual or emotional intimacy with him because she is so tired of him depending on her for everything. To feel more powerful and to get his sexual needs met, he turns to someone less threatening and who he thinks understands him better – his daughter.
- Either the husband or the wife or both were abused by their parents or other family members when they were children. Since they never learned healthy behavior, nor do they understand appropriate child development tasks, they can’t meet each other’s needs or the needs of their children. So, they expect their children to take care of them in the areas of affection, love, and sexual intimacy.
- A household, where the father believes strongly in the patriarchal ideal of the father being in control of everyone and everything, tends to view his family as his property. The wife, wanting to keep the family together, obeys his every command and colludes with the husband to keep his incestuous behavior a secret.
Sadly, each of these three scenarios plays out in large numbers of families across the United States whether they are rich or poor, educated or uneducated, highly respected in the public area or not. It is only by talking openly about these issues that we will start an engaging and constructive dialogue about the proper care of our most treasured assets – America’s children.