So, a bit off guard, I said, “Have you thought about reporting him to child protective services?” She replied, “Of course, but if I did that my mother would end up on the street because she cannot support herself." Her mother would suffer, and it would be all her fault. No doubt she would be blamed by the family.
One still needs a good theory in order to interpret the behavior that I had been observing. Luckily, as I started to try to make sense of the evidence before me, I came across some relevant ones. For example, there was Sam Slipp, who wrote about the dysfunctional family roles of savior, avenger, and go-between. And then there was family therapy pioneer Murray Bowen, who wrote about family emotional processes and the intergenerational transmission of dysfunctional family patterns.