Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

The Narcissistic Family: Diagnosis and Treatment

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

The Narcissistic Family: Diagnosis and Treatment

Article excerpt

The Narcissistic Family: Diagnosis and Treatment. By Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman and Robert M. Pressman. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1997 (paperback edition). vii + 181 pp. $25.95 (paper).

Narcissism has been a favourite topic of therapists, counsellors, and authors since the dawn of modern psychotherapy and, although considerable attention has been paid to the impact of narcissism on clients evidencing narcissistic tendencies in themselves, somewhat less has been given to those who have suffered the effects of narcissism in their family system. In The Narcissistic Family Donaldson-Pressman and Pressman have offered a concise and helpful account of the impact of narcissism upon those who have lived within an emotionally neglective or abusive family and offer a broad outline treatment model for adults presenting with narcissistic family of origin issues. The authors' interest in this area stemmed from the observation that a number of therapists had reported encountering clients who presented with classic ACOA issues, but were not children of alcoholic families. Further research suggested that children who had grown up in a narcissistic family of origin experienced many of the same difficulties in their adult life as did ACOAs. The common factor in both types of systems is that the family structure is 'skewed' in such a way as to allow the needs of one or both parents to be met at the expense of the needs of one or more of the children in the family system.

Narcissistic families are, then, identified by the fact that ". . . at some point in the families' histories, the responsibility for the meeting of emotional needs shifted from the parents where it belonged-to the children" (p. 40). One result of this is the failure of children to develop skills in identifying and meeting their own emotional and relationship needs adequately-often resulting in the formation of significant personal and therapeutic issues in later life. …

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