One recent search term leading a reader to one of my posts struck me. It was "Five children. One BPD [borderline personality disorder]. Why?"
What an excellent question!
Unbelievably, I still occasionally hear the argument that this or that behavioral disorder could not possibly be shaped primarily by dysfunctional relationships with parents, because other children of the offending parents turned out quite different. That fact proves the disorder is biogenetic? Of course, in addition to growing up in the same household, siblings also happen to share many of the same genes - but that point is seldom brought up by people who make such claims.
Anyway, neuroscientists already know for certain that complex behaviors in human beings are not determined by single genes or even by groups of genes.
Do you have siblings? Do you have more than one child? Tell me if the siblings are all treated exactly the same by your parents or in your family. Come on, be honest.
|"Ma always liked you best."|
Of course, parental behavior is hardly the only influence on how children turn out after they grow up, but it remains one of the most important and potent ones.
The behaviorists claimed that if they just taught patients new and better habits and reinforced them, then they would be completely cured. The analysts said that would not work because the patient’s underlying conflict would still be present, so the patient would therefore develop a new and different symptom. The behaviorists claimed to have proof that their side won the argument, but that might be because they cured things like phobias that were not caused by internal conflicts in the first place. Neither side had any evidence for their argument when it came to dysfunctional personality traits.
If he follows through, he will usually first suffer universal condemnation from every relative he has. If that powerful family maneuver does not get him to change his mind, as it usually will, a brother may then move in with Mom and take his place. The brother may even develop marital problems that lead to a divorce so that he can free himself up to do so.
They may pressure the Chosen One to stay in the role, not just to let themselves off the hook, but because they think their mother actually prefers the Chosen One in the role, and wants no one else to play it. The Chosen One was, in a sense, picked out by Mom specifically to play the role. The Chosen One is treated by the siblings in the way they do for Mom's benefit, not just their own!
|Dr. Joel Paris, my colleague in the Association for Research in Personality Disorders|
The authors discount the idea that the dysfunctional parenting was differentially applied to the sisters in their study, despite the significant differences in some of the numbers. The sisters, they wrote, reported “equally impaired” relationship with the parents.
Clearly, most of the victim’s interactions with perpetrators and bystanders alike occur at times when abuse is not occurring, and these other parts of such relationships may also have profound effects on the victim’s later relationships and self image. Again, due to their staggering complexity and intermittent nature, they are difficult to study using statistical techniques.
Contextual factors include the entire history of the relationship between the victim and the perpetrator: what is said during, before, and after the abuse; what the relationship between victim and perpetrators is like when the abuse is not taking place; what other people in the family are doing at the time of the abuse and at other times; how each family member relates to the victim; who if anybody knows what is going on and whether or not they intervene; and a whole host of other characteristics of the interpersonal environment of the victim.
“So get to the question of why one child is singled out already,” I hear you complaining. “Why would parents focus their conflictual behavior on one or perhaps two of their children, leaving the others relatively unscathed?" OK, OK, I'll tell you why I think that happens.
I will describe how the parents may develop such an internal conflict in my next post.