WHEN I was a Dean of Students I became increasingly fascinated by the tremendous complexity and subtlety of the dynamics of student-parent relationships. I grew more and more convinced that the important forces at work between the participants were dominantly subjective and emotional, inhibiting mutual objective understanding. Above all I learned the extent of human oblivion to personal motivation in any such highly emotional situation.
The parental tie is one of the strongest of all emotional ties. It is, however, one that should and must be broken, or at least rewoven in a looser mesh, if young people are to achieve independence and personality fulfilment. As a Dean, I most frequently saw parents when, regardless of the surface details of their immediate question, the true issue was the son's struggle to break one of the threads of the tie. This is not an unusual nor a new struggle; all of us have been aware of it in our own lives, but it has relatively unexplored aspects that I should like to examine in the hope of presenting a fresh viewpoint in a unified and perhaps illuminating way.
The young person has the problem of growing away from his parent toward himself, the parent that of timing his permission for him to do so, that of determining the rate of thread cutting that will achieve a new and satisfactory relationship on a mutually mature basis.
Most parents intellectually want their children to become separate individuals but emotionally and subconsciously they, in general, wish to hold them and control them.
- Copyright © 1965 by the American Academy of Pediatrics