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WALTER TOMAN
FAMILY
CONSTELLATION
Its Effect on Personality and
Social Behavior
FOURTH EDITION
CLSPRINGER PUBLISHING COMPA...
FAMILY CONSTELLATION
ItsEffects onPersonality
and SocialBehavior
WalterTomanisProfessorEmeritusof ClinicalPsychologyat theUniver¬
sityofErlangen-NiimberginGermany,Heisstillactive thereint...
FAMILY CONSTELLATION
Its Effects onPersonality
and SocialBehavior
Fourth Edition
Walter Toman, Ph.D.
iSPRINGER/PUBLISHINGC...
FirstEdition,1961
SecondEdition,1969
ThirdEdition,1976
Germanlanguageeditionspublishedin1965,1974,1980,1987,and1991by Veri...
Contents
Preface to the Fourth Edition xi
Part I: THEOR Y AND RESEARC H
1. Introductio n 3
2. Persons Comprising a Family ...
vi Contents
3. Change s in Family Constellations 37
Loss of Family Members 38
Step- and Half Siblings 50
Adopted Children ...
Contents vii
The Oldest Sister of Sisters 167
The Youngest Sister of Sisters 171
The Oldest Sister of Brothers 174
The You...
viii Contents
Parents With Rankand Partial SexConflicts 215
Father the oldest brother of sisters/
Mother the oldest sister...
Contents
16. Family Data in Clinical Psychological Practice
Data Collections of Family Constellations
Guide for Securing D...
PREFACE TO THE
FOURTH EDITION
e have all grown up in a family context, whether it was the
ideal family setting, a single p...
xii Preface
This book will tellabout the family wehave come from, the pos-
sible significance of different family constell...
Preface xiii
families too have become smaller. Incidents of separation and di-
vorce ofparents as well as ofsingleparents ...
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Theory and Research
T
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Introduction
1
very person isborn into afamily.This family, however, might
be incomplete or become incomplete in the cours...
4 Family Constellation
strata.The averageagedifference among spouses,however, seems
to have remained the same, with the hu...
Introduction
changes ofresidence aswellasillnesses involvingtemporarysepa-
rations from the family may play a part. On the...
Family Constellation
tion ofthe pastcanbechanged. Fromhis experiences at school and
at work a person maybeable to reevahta...
Persons Comprising
a Family
As outlined before, most families are composed of a father, a
mother, and several children. Mo...
8 Family Constellation
An average and intact family with several children may differ
significantly from another average in...
Persons Comprising a Family
child in a configuration of five children, holds one of 5-24 possible
positions. That makes on...
10 Family Constellation
younger brother will challenge the older brother, reject his leads
and his care,and begin tocompet...
Persons Comprising a Family 11
as an example and idol to the younger brother; at the same time,
they also tend to be more ...
12 Family Constellation
in their earlylives. He isnot onlybeing groomed fora role ofcaring
and helping,but also forleading...
Persons Comprising a Family 13
and spoil her. Outside the family both siblings remain more inter-
ested in contacts with p...
14 FamilyConstellation
than other girls with "her boys'" successes, especially when they
accepthernurturanceand care.Sheca...
Persons Comprising a Family 15
tional families in thatthe daughterbecomes theleader and assumes
responsibilities, whereas ...
16 FamilyConstellation
love inaddition to her mother (when the twosistersare four or five
years apart). Shenotices long be...
Persons Comprising a Family 17
pected to obey the parents, to identify with them, to renounce her
wishes in favor of the y...
18 FamilyConstellation
girl against another. This generally makes the characteristics of
tiheir sibling positions clearer ...
Persons Comprising a Family 19
focus on one of his siblings, perhaps on the youngest or on the sec-
ond youngest. Theother...
Family Constellation
configuration may simultaneously have several sibling relation-
ships, not only of the same type, but...
Persons Comprising a Family 21
of olderbrothers and younger sistersmayalsohaveyounger broth-
ers, etc. An observer may fin...
22 Family Constellation
other middlesiblings suchasthe third orfourth youngest inhis sib-
ling configuration, may also bec...
Persons Comprising a Family 23
of only onesex,and twoofthemcontainbothsexes.Theprobability
that the oldest of three siblin...
24 Family Constellatiion
intosubgroups, atprecisely thispoint.Iftheage difference between
the first threeof sixsiblings we...
Persons Comprising a Family 25
lies whose child configurationsstarted with a girl. Wethen tested
how manymore children the...
26 Family Constellation
In his family, the only child is not or is only indirectly prepared
forcontacts withpeers.Helearns...
Persons Comprising a Family 27
treatment. As at home, they want to be in thelimelight under the
guidance and protection of...
28 Family Constellation
Animals, however, frequently have twins, quintuplets, or even lit-
ters oftenor twelve.Veryfewanim...
PersonsComprising a Family 29
by acting alike and "in collusion." They are two, and mat helps.
Other children have to do i...
30 I^milyConsteilaagn
their siblings to a greater extent than twins do. The other siblings
notice thisand try to put up a ...
Persons Comprising a Family 31
returns for parental favors, whereas the younger one gets them for
free. Theolder sibling r...
32 Family Constellation
inhisway.Atthattime,though,the older child isengaged inactivi-
tiesand concerned about"property"an...
Persons Comprising a Family 33
other and decide among themselves how theirnew sibling is to be
incorporated andwhomayor sh...
34 FamilyConstellation
tihe youngest brother toomaybe glancing with envy at the happy
harmony prevailingamongtheother thre...
Persons Comprisinga Family 35
oldest child, contacts with the child tend to be less intimate.These
parents are inclined to...
36 Family Constellation
if they havechildren of their own, they may be a bit like grandchil-
dren to him. Ifsuch a marriag...
Changes in Family
amily constellations change during the course of time. The
family members grow older. In an objectivesen...
38 Family Constellation
Changes within family constellations during the course of time
are basically similar for different...
Changes in Family Constellations 39
about the effect of the lossof a person until those who suffered the
loss have been qu...
40 Family Constellation
behave as iftheyhad lost theirmother, a sibling, or no one. In both
families a 5-year-old daughter...
Changes in Family Constellations 41
Partial losses are lossesof certain (positive) characteristics or as-
pects ofa person...
42 FamilyConstellation
h. the greater thenumber oflosses,and the graver the losses,that have
occurred before.
These rules ...
Changes in Family Constellations 43
losesthe other, the younger siblingisoften at anutter lossandmore
agitated than an old...
44 Family Constellation
selves turn 6 years of age. In contrast, 4 percent of those children
and youths who had consulted ...
Changes ta Family Constellations 45
be established whether their mothershad orhad not suffered early
losses of a parent. W...
46 Family Constellation
coming up asaneventual substitute resembles the person who has
been lost.
In some instances it ish...
Walter Toman - Family Constellation - Its Effects on Personality and Social Behavior
Walter Toman - Family Constellation - Its Effects on Personality and Social Behavior
Walter Toman - Family Constellation - Its Effects on Personality and Social Behavior
Walter Toman - Family Constellation - Its Effects on Personality and Social Behavior
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Walter Toman - Family Constellation - Its Effects on Personality and Social Behavior

  1. 1. WALTER TOMAN FAMILY CONSTELLATION Its Effect on Personality and Social Behavior FOURTH EDITION CLSPRINGER PUBLISHING COMPANY
  2. 2. FAMILY CONSTELLATION ItsEffects onPersonality and SocialBehavior
  3. 3. WalterTomanisProfessorEmeritusof ClinicalPsychologyat theUniver¬ sityofErlangen-NiimberginGermany,Heisstillactive thereinthe teach¬ ingof andresearchinpersonality development withinsocialcontextsand inpsychotherapy of individuals, families,and groups.Hehasbecomein¬ ternationallyknown,since1959,forhisworkonfamilies,particularly with thefirsteditionofFamilyConstellationin1961,whichsoonbecamea classic inthescholarly community.He was the first to includea person'sparents and their respective families of origininhis structural analyses of family livesand to trace their effectssystematically,all the way toaperson'schil¬ dren.He was trained as a psychologist and psychoanalystinVienna, and taughtatHarvardUniversity(1951-54) andBrandeisUniversity(1954-64) before moving back to Europe. Since that time, he has been in frequent contact withGeorgetownUniversity,BrandeisUniversity,theMenninger Clinic, in addition to other universities in the United States, Germany, Austria, England and France.
  4. 4. FAMILY CONSTELLATION Its Effects onPersonality and SocialBehavior Fourth Edition Walter Toman, Ph.D. iSPRINGER/PUBLISHINGCOMPANY
  5. 5. FirstEdition,1961 SecondEdition,1969 ThirdEdition,1976 Germanlanguageeditionspublishedin1965,1974,1980,1987,and1991by VeriagC.KBede,Munich Copyright ©1993bySpringerPublishingCompany,Inc, Alirightsreserved Nopart ofthispublicationmaybereproduced,storedinaretrievalsystem,ortransmittedinany formorby any means, electronic,mechanical, photocopyingrecording or otherwise, without prior permission of SpringerPublishingCompany,Inc, Springer Publishing Company, Inc. 11 west 42nd Street New York, NY 10036-8002 0607 08 / 10 LibraryofCongressCaUloging-in-PublicationData Toman,Walter. Familyconstellation/WalterToman. - 4thed. p. cm. Indudesbibliographicalreferencesandindexes. ISBN0-8261-0496-7 1.Birthorder. LTitle. BF723.B5T6 1992 155.9ÿ4—dc20 92-2396 OP CoverdesignbyHoilvBlock Printedin the United States of America by C-DOC Services.
  6. 6. Contents Preface to the Fourth Edition xi Part I: THEOR Y AND RESEARC H 1. Introductio n 3 2. Persons Comprising a Family 7 Two Brothers 9 Brother and Sister 11 Sister and Brother 13 Two Sisters 15 A Person with Several Siblings of the Same Type 17 Multiple Sibling Positions 19 The Size of a Sibling Configuration 22 Only Children 25 Twins 27 Age Differences 30 v
  7. 7. vi Contents 3. Change s in Family Constellations 37 Loss of Family Members 38 Step- and Half Siblings 50 Adopted Children 55 4. Othe r Influencing Factors 5 9 5. Anima l Families and Special Forms of Human Families 6 9 6. Lovers and Spouses 75 The Complementary Nature of Certain Sibling Roles 78 Noneomplementary Relationships 82 Only Children Among the Partners 85 The Complementary Versus the Noneomplementary Relationship of Sibling Roles 87 Statistical Tests of Complementarity of Sibling Roles of Parents 93 7. Friendship s 10 5 8. Parent-Chil d Relationships 11 5 9. Relative s 12 7 10. Th e Data 13 5 Part II: APPLICATIO N AND PRACTIC E 11. The Bask Types of Sibling Positions 141 The Oldest Brother of Brothers 150 The Youngest Brother of Brothers 154 The Oldest Brother of Sisters 157 The Youngest Brother of Sisters 161 The Male Only Child 164
  8. 8. Contents vii The Oldest Sister of Sisters 167 The Youngest Sister of Sisters 171 The Oldest Sister of Brothers 174 The Youngest Sister of Brothers 177 The Female Only Child 181 Multiple and Middle Sibling Positions: Interpretation Guidelines 185 Rearrangement of Sibling Positions 191 12. Parents and Types of Parents 195 Parents Without Rank and SexConflicts 200 Father the oldest brother of sisters/ Mother the youngest sister of brothers 200 Father the youngest brother of sisters/ Mother the oldest sister of brothers 201 Parents With a Partial SexConflict 202 Father the oldest brotherof sisters/ Mother the youngest sister of sisters 202 Father the youngest brother of sisters/ Mother the oldest sister of sisters 204 Father the oldest brotherof brothers/ Mother the youngest sister of brothers 205 Father the youngest brother of brothers/ Mother the oldest sister of brothers 207 Parents With Rank or SexConflicts 209 Father the oldest brother of sisters/ Mother the oldest sister of brothers 209 Father the youngest brother of sisters/ Mother the youngest sister of brothers 210 Father the oldest brother of brothers/ Mother the youngest sister of sisters 211 Father the youngest brother of brothers/ Mother the oldest sister of sisters 213
  9. 9. viii Contents Parents With Rankand Partial SexConflicts 215 Father the oldest brother of sisters/ Mother the oldest sister of sisters 215 Father the youngest brother of sisters/ Mother the youngest sister of sisters 216 Father the oldest brother of brothers/ Mother the oldest sister of brothers 218 Father the youngest brother of brothers/ Mother the youngest sister of brothers 220 Parents With Rank and Sex Conflicts 222 Father the oldest brother of brothers/ Mother the oldest sister of sisters 222 Fattier the youngest brother of brothers/ Mother the youngest sister of sisters 223 Only Children as Spouses and Parents 225 Father an only child 227 Mother an only child 227 Both parents are only children 228 Parents With Multiple and Middle Sibling Positions 229 13. Clinical Cases 233 The SymbolicRepresentation of Family Constellations 233 A Case of a Young Man Married at an Early Age 239 A Case of Parents in Family Therapy 245 A Case of a Gangof Youthsin Group Therapy 254 14. Quantitative Aspects, Related Theories and Other Investigations 261 15. Methodological Considerations in Social/ Psychological and Clinical Contexts 267 More Research on the Complementarity of Sibling Roles 269 Looking at an Individual Case 273
  10. 10. Contents 16. Family Data in Clinical Psychological Practice Data Collections of Family Constellations Guide for Securing Data on Family Constellations Social EnvironmentQuestionnaire Bibliography Author Index Subject Index ix 275 277 279 281 285 303 305
  11. 11. PREFACE TO THE FOURTH EDITION e have all grown up in a family context, whether it was the ideal family setting, a single parenthome, oreven a surrogatefam- ily, and many of us will go on to start our own families, or already have done so. It is their examplethat we use tobuild our own fam- ily. However, during adolescence and as young adults we tend to feel and act differently. This iswhenwe try to disconnect ourselves gradually from our family and searchforour own identities. Wetry to discover ourselves through education, work, hobbies, and, above all, friendships. We want to travel, try new opportunities, and meet new people. Wethinkwe do not need a family. We look for new friendships and love relationships. Generally, we are afraid of commitment, not to mention the idea of marriage. This kind of search for ourselves does not last forever.Sooner or later we encounter the person that will become more importantto us thanallothers.Wewanttosettle down,perhapsforever. Thede- sire for a child may occur. If it is not too late, a second child may follow, sometimes even a third. Suddenly, we find ourselves in a family contextagain—looking to our family oforigin for guidance. How do we handle it. What are our options? XI W
  12. 12. xii Preface This book will tellabout the family wehave come from, the pos- sible significance of different family constellations for our later lives, theexperiences and expectations webring toour friendships, to our spouse, and ultimately, to our family. Whether you are an only child or have siblings;are the oldest or the youngest; haveall sisters or allbrothers; whether your parents come from a large ora small family; how your parents got along with each other and their respective families of origin; to what extent the sequence of their children matchedtheir expectations,and whether any family mem- bers were missing or lost will all be described in Family Constella- tion. I have tried to do that comprehensively, concisely and intelligibly. In mis book, readers will find their own family constellation as wellas the family constellationsoftheirfriends, acquaintances,lov- ersand spouses, They willbetter understand their parents, siblings and themselves. If readers are planning to have children, theycan learn aboutwhattoexpect from different options.Ifthey havechil- dren, thebook may help themin dealing with them.Theymay find the answers to some puzzling situations. Conflicts may clear up, They may evenfind explanations for why some people don'twant children of their own. This book has been drawn from the actualbehavior of real peo- ple and the many family lives that I have observed and studied since 1956 as a counselor, psychotherapist and psychoanalyst. Since 1960, agrowing numberofcolleagues and studentshave also been assisting with their observations and studies. Thesystematic research on which this book is based was first carried out in the United States, then expanded in Germanyand Switzerland (finan- cially supported by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft). Smaller studies were conducted in Austria, England, Denmark,The Neth- erlands and France.Thelarge samples were taken from cities, and small samples from towns and rural areas where families custom- arily tend to be larger. However, since we first started our investi- gations, people living in towns and rural areas have increasingly adopted the ways of life of the cities and industrial regions. Their
  13. 13. Preface xiii families too have become smaller. Incidents of separation and di- vorce ofparents as well as ofsingleparents havebecomemore fre- quent inthelast 25years, withclearlynoticeableill effects upon the children. Smaller families are usually easier to observe and understand than larger ones.Understanding thesmallerones isan integralkey to understanding the larger families and their more complicated structures and dynamics. A few exampleswill show how to deal with those, too. In this edition of Family Constellation, chapters 14 and 15 have been rewritten. Now they offer a brief account of quantitative as- pects, related theories and work ofother researchers, as well as an updated scientific discussion ofthe subject.Readerswho are inter- ested in a more detailed account of the quantitative aspects of Fam- ily Constellation and other research should consultthose chaptersin the third edition of this book, availablein most libraries, as well as the updated bibliography of thisedition. Walter Toman
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  15. 15. Theory and Research T
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  17. 17. Introduction 1 very person isborn into afamily.This family, however, might be incomplete or become incomplete in the course ofaperson's life. The father, the mother, or siblings may be lost as a consequence of death, of divorce, or of other forms of separation. On the average, in western European industrial societies man grows up in a two- or three-child family, in the United States in a three-child family, and both father and mother stay in the family. At the time of marriage, the father is approximately27yearsof age (about 26in the U.S.), the mother is 24years of age (23in the U.S.). The average age difference between them is 3 years. It generally takes one to two years before the first child is born, the last child born about 7(to 8)years after marriage.The average age difference between children is 3 to 4 years. Parents whohave more than threechildren tend tohave married somewhat earlier. They may be married more than 7 years before they have their last child, and theagedifference between their chil- dren may be 2 to 3 years. The spouses' average age at marriage has varied somewhat not only during different periods of history, but also in different social 3 E
  18. 18. 4 Family Constellation strata.The averageagedifference among spouses,however, seems to have remained the same, with the husband about three years older than the wife. In 9out of 10 cases the family remains complete at least until the youngest childreaches adolescence. In 10%ofall families withchil- dren oneparent islost throughseparation, divorce,or death before the child is 15 years old, in 5%even before the child has completed his 6th year of life; this includes cases where one parent is absent from the birth of the child onward. In 8 out of 10cases the lost or missing parent is the father, in 2 out of 10cases it is the mother. Each parenttends tocomefrom a family of4children. Generally, 2ofthe 3siblings ofthe parent are married. In 8out of 10cases they also have children. Deviations from these averages may imply different psychologi- cal consequences. The typical ways in which parents and siblings influence each other will be described. If parents are many more than 3 years apart in age, if they have their first child at a much greater age than averageparents, ifthe age difference between sib- lings isconsiderablymoreorconsiderably lessthan 3to4years, ifa parent or achildislost,ifsucha loss occurs quiteearlyor ratherlate in aperson's life, the family situationis permanently altered in im- portant aspects in comparison with the average family. It may be assumed—and it has been demonstrated in many ways (e.g. Bowlby 1951; Toman 1961,1965a)—that such changed family situ- ations have different effects upon a person's social behavior both within the family and in extrafamilial social contexts. According to Hull (1943) and Freud (1916/17; also Toman 1960a,c, 1968), a person transfers or generalizes his experiences within the family tosocial situationsoutside the family, for instance to the playground, to kindergarten or school, to acquaintances he mighthaveand to friends he mightmake, to groups and clubs that hejoins, to hischosen workand toprofessional situations thathe is partly in a position to choose to be a part of,and which he attends, at any rate, day after day, often for many years. Apart from the effect ofpeople on the individual, residences and
  19. 19. Introduction changes ofresidence aswellasillnesses involvingtemporarysepa- rations from the family may play a part. On the average, a youth experiences one or two changes of residence before his fifteenth year. During thattime, hehas usuallysuffered about threeillnesses or accidents that did not require hospitalization, and one illness or accident that did. Hospitalization lasted an averageoffour weeks. Deviations from these averages, such as a larger number of changes of residenceor ofhospitalizations,may(adversely) affect a person's social behavior (Toman & Preiser 1973). On the other hand, no changes of residence and fewor no illnesses may affect a person's social behavior more favorably. The purpose of this book is to describe the most important and most easily distinguishable effects of variousdifferent social and family environments. Weproceed from the assumption thata per- son's family represents the most influential contextof his life, and that it exerts its influence more regularly, more exclusively, and earlier ina person'slife thando anyotherlife contexts.Playground, school, college, organizations and clubs, employment, and so on become effective only much later in a person's life, only for part of the day,and often only for limitedperiods oftime.The family con- text usually persists even at those times. Generally speaking, the individual remains a physical memberof the family far intoadult- hood, although admittedly for increasingly shorter and more ir- regular periods of time. One may assume that it is the earlyand morepervasive life con- texts rather than contexts emerging relativelylate and more spo- radically that serve as a basis for generalizations of past experiences to new contexts. The family's influence on a person's behavior in school is usually greaterthanthe school's influence on his behavior in the family. A person's experiences at home and in school are more likely to be transferred to hisjobsituationthan are his experiences at work to his experiences in school or at home. This is not to say that events occurring later ina person's life can exert any influencewhatsoever on eventsthathad takenplace ear- lier. Thepast can no longer bechanged.Onlyaperson's interpreta- 5
  20. 20. Family Constellation tion ofthe pastcanbechanged. Fromhis experiences at school and at work a person maybeable to reevahtate retrospectively someof his experiences at home. Even his relationships to members of his family may beconsiderably modified.Weshould expect, however, that these modified relationships will exert weaker influences on that person's future life in his family and on his behavior in con- texts outside the family thanwould his original early relationships to family members.Thisdoesnot mean to implyan inescapable de- terminism, but recent and contemporary influences should not be overestimated inviewoftheearly influencesthathavebeen having their effect formuchlonger.Theeffects ofthe latter are often covert. They appear insentiments and attitudes, inbasic wishes and inter- ests ofwhich the person maybe partly unaware. Theydo affect his social behavior, and, to besure, they often do so more strongly, the less conscious they are. 6
  21. 21. Persons Comprising a Family As outlined before, most families are composed of a father, a mother, and several children. Most often the father is the bread- winner and the mother takes careofthe house and the children, at least until the youngest child has started togo toschool. In the long run and under the given circumstances, this seems to be the most popular and possibly the optimal solution in mostnations. There is nothing intrinsically abnormal in a father takingcare of the house and of the children while the mother holds a job, although this seems to be the exception. Sucha couple mustbe prepared, at any rate, to be viewed as odd by other families or by other children; they should be aware that such evaluationsby the environment may create some problems for their own children. If both parents are working,they willhaveto entrust their chil- dren to the care ofsomebody else, and thereby they willlose a por- tion of their parental role. Those persons who take care of the children are likelytobecome theirpsychologicalparents. They and their life and family situations may exert a greater influence on the children than do the actual parents and their life and family situ- ations. 7 2
  22. 22. 8 Family Constellation An average and intact family with several children may differ significantly from another average intact family in the age se- quenceand sexdistribution oftheir children.Letusbriefly consider families with only two children. They may have two boys, two girls, or aboy and a girl. In the latter case, either the boy or the girl maybetheelderchild.Afamily withthreechildren mayhave three boys, two boys and a girl, a boy and two girls, or three girls, whereby siblingconfigurationsof both boys and girls can come in several varieties.With twoboysand agirl, forinstance, the girlcan be the eldest, the middle, or the youngest child. Analogously, with a boy and two girls, the boy can be the oldest, the middle, or the youngest amongthesiblings.Inother words,whenweconsider the age rank and the sex of a child alone, three childrencan come in 8 different combinations.Generallyspeaking, a givenconfiguration of siblings isoneof2n possible configurations ofsiblings, wheren is the number ofchildren. A givenchildin a two-childfamily can be a boy or a girl. Ifit isa boy, he can bethe older or the younger of the two children, and he may haveabrother orasister forasibling.Thesameholds foragirl. She can be the older or the younger sister either of a brother orof another sister. Inshort: in a family with two children, a givenchild can assume one of four possible positions. If a child—let us say a boy—comes from a three-child family, he may be the oldest, the middle, or the youngest child, and he may have twobrothers, twosisters, abrother and a sister,or a sister and a brother.Thusthe givenboycan assume oneofthreepossibleage- rank positions and he can haveone of four possibleconfigurations of siblings. In other words, he is holding one of 12 possible posi- tions. The samewould be trueofa girl. Moregenerally speaking,a given person holds one of n-2R ~l possible positions in his sibling configuration, wheren isagainthe numberofchildren in thatcon- figuration. The number of possible sibling positions increases with an in- creasing numberof children. A child with four siblings, such as a
  23. 23. Persons Comprising a Family child in a configuration of five children, holds one of 5-24 possible positions. That makes one of 80possibilities. In the course of adescription ofallthepossibilities we may easily lose perspective. Weshall thereforechoose the two-child family as a paradigm in examining all its possible sibling positions. TWO BROTHERS Let us look first at the older and the younger brother of two brothers. The older brother of a brother has to get used to life witha child of his own sexwhen his new sibling isborn. Underordinarycircum- stances, he is about three yearsold at the timethishappens. Bythe time he is six years old, he has shared three years of life with his brother, or half of his own life, and his youngerbrother has shared all three years of his. It would be strange if the two did not some- how learn to get along with each other. It is also likely, however, that they will approach new relationships outside the family, say with playmates or other peers, according to the expectations they have developed at home with each other. Under ordinary circumstances the older brother of a brother learns, among other things, to assume responsibility and leader- ship vis-a-vis his brother. The parentsdemand thathe heed thelit- tle one's interests, thathe protect him,and that he give him things even ifhe gets nothing in return,or, at best, onlya little praise from his parents. He must renounce certainthings inthe youngerbroth- er's favor without, at first, understanding why. He does not like this, but through identification with his parentshe gets used to the idea. As he gets older, it becomes progressively easier for him to extract favors in return from the littleone and even to win the par- ents'support in this. Heenjoys thefact that hislittlebrother accepts his leadership and his responsible role.Thelittleone mayeven con- sider him his idol. In some mattersand atsome times, however, the 9
  24. 24. 10 Family Constellation younger brother will challenge the older brother, reject his leads and his care,and begin tocompete with him.This theolder brother will not like very well. The power conflicts between the two will be milder and their personalities willdevelop into greater mutual independence if the two brothers are four or five years apart in age. In this case, how- ever, the older brother isparticularlyaware from thestart that they have only onewoman toshare among three men and that they will have to be satisfied with only a portion of the mother's attention and time. If, ontheother hand, the twobrothers areonly one or two years apart in age, their conflicts become particularly intense, al- though they are only vaguely conscious of them. In this case the two do not fight as much for a fair give-and-take nor for who will show the greater achievement,but for which one will get the most T/w younger brother of a brother has lived with an older, taller, smarter, stronger, more perfect boy than himself as far back as he can remember. This may not dawn on him during his first year of life, when hismotherisaround most ofhis wakinghours, but in his second and third year his father and his "big brother" enter signifi- cantly intohis life. Theyoungerbrother will ofcourse noticethat he is under the protection ofhis big brother outside the house, but at home and in the family, where he spends more of his time at first than anywhere else, he does not need all that protection. On the contrary, the two get into each other's way.As long as the younger brother does not find ways to play by himself, the older brother forces his will upon him. He also urges him unconsciously to do things as well as or even better than he can, and to become as big and smart and strong as he is as quickly as possible. The younger brother succeeds only superficially in the begin- ning. He may even be ridiculed for his efforts. The need, however, to catch up withhis brother, even toovertake him, or at least to op- pose or resist himat times, maystay with him and carry over to his future interactions with peers outside the family. Theparents themselves are inclined to present the older brother
  25. 25. Persons Comprising a Family 11 as an example and idol to the younger brother; at the same time, they also tend to be more tolerant and ready to take the younger son's part than that of the older one. Since the mother is the only female in the house, there is more rivalry among the brothers for her favor thanthere isinother families. Incomparisontoother fam- ily constellations, actual contact with their mother, as well as the possibilities ofpracticing "contactwithfemales"witheachother by means ofrole playing, are reduced. Tothem awomanseems harder to reach and to understand than she does to children in other sib- ling positions. In summary we can say that, through their experiences in the family, the older and the younger brother ofbrothers are well pre- pared for contactswith peers ofthe samesex,but not with peersof the opposite sex. The older brother has learned to lead and to as- sume responsibility for peers of the samesex;the younger one has learned to imitate, to follow his brotherand boysin general, and to compete with and to oppose them aswell. BROTHER AND A brother and a sister arrange their life with each other differ- ently. The older brother of a sister has also been around for about three years before his sibling appears. Aboutthistimeor soon thereafter he realizes that there are two sexes inhis family and elsewhere. He may thereforesoon feel happy about the sex ofhis sibling. He and his sister are, after all,something likefather and mother. Alittlegirl seems to deserve the abundantcareher mother offers her. Father, too, usuallytreats mother with tenderness and consideration. He, the older brother ofa sister, does not havetocompetewith hislittle sister. What he learns to do for her will be repaid by her love and affection. She will love him as his mother loves his father. These are rather common ideas amongolder brothers of sisters
  26. 26. 12 Family Constellation in their earlylives. He isnot onlybeing groomed fora role ofcaring and helping,but also forleading and taking charge vis-a-visa girl. Hecanmoreeasily accepthis littlesister ifhe is four or five years older than she, even if he does experience conflicts more con- sciously and more clearly than a boy who is closer to his sister in age. If,on theother hand, he is merely one or two years older than she, the sex of his sibling escapes his notice at first. The baby is a competitor forthe favor and affection of the parents, evena rival for sheer food. Under this frightening situation, it may take longer than usual (thatis,some timeup tohis fifth year)tolosehisfear that his parents favor hissister, thatshe receives more than he ever did, and that she is called upon far less to work and apply herself, The youngersisterof a brother tends to develop into a particularly feminine person.Shelearns to look up to her brother and to accept not only his protection and care,but also his leadership. Sheseems toknow thathelikesher and thatshecandepend on him.There are things she need not do, such as hard physical work or tasks where she may get dirty.She need not fend for herself, for instance with other children at home or on the playground. Her brother takes care of that. Her father and mother are usually content with the role she plays. Sheisthe littledarlingof the family. Her father is kind, help- ful, and forgiving, and her mother also does not object to her daughter's special treatment. All family members seem to recog- nize that they can practice relationships with the other sex in vari- ous ways: brotherand sister can play father and mother with each other. The brother can also play father vis-i-vis mother, the sister mother vis-4-vis father. Thebrothercanusually identify easily with his father, the sister with her mother. In summarywemaysaythatboth siblings, the older brother ofa sister and theyoungersister ofabrother, get used to life witha peer of the opposite sex. Thebrother also tends to assume a role of lead- ership and responsibility with girls other than his sister. The younger sister of a brother, in turn, is likely to let other boys lead
  27. 27. Persons Comprising a Family 13 and spoil her. Outside the family both siblings remain more inter- ested in contacts with peers of the opposite sex than with those of the same sex. SISTER AND BROTHE R A sister and a brother arrange their lives with each other in still another way. The older sister of a brother will generallybe three years old when her sibling arrives, and it soon dawns onher thathis sexhas its ad- vantages. She can play mother for her little brother, Just as mother does with both of them and with father. She has to takecare of the little one, has to guard and protect himand will beheld responsible for himbytheparents, butshealsogetsalittleinreturn: helooks up to her. He appreciates and loves her and before long learns to do her courtesies and favors too, however slight and shallow theymay be.Theolder sister seems torealize thather younger brother, being the first and onlyboy in the family, tends tobetakenmore seriously and to be valued somewhat higher than herself. If she wants to be sure of her parents' affection, she must take care of him. If she is four or five years older than her brother, she becomes accustomed to the situation even more quickly than if the age dif- ference is only three years, but this does not mean mat there are no fights and quarrels. In fact, the twosiblings speak their minds in no uncertain terms at times. If the age difference between the sister and tihe brother is merely one or two years, then the sister feels more threatened by his arrival and has trouble expressing her feel- ings. She may take up to her fifth year oflife to get used to her little brother beforeshe isableto adopt a nurturingattitude toward him. In each case, the role of maternalcareand responsibility as well as an awareness of her somewhat lesser importance in the family stays with her far into adulthood. She can handle boys well any- where. She senses their interests, may even adopt those interests herself and subordinate her own. She can identify more readily
  28. 28. 14 FamilyConstellation than other girls with "her boys'" successes, especially when they accepthernurturanceand care.Shecartgive them comfort and con- solation, and doesit witha certain satisfaction. Whenother people are in trouble, they come to her, and she likes that The younger brother of a sister is usually allowed to pursue his own wishes and interests in a rather carefreeand sometimes even in a selfishor incoherentmanner.He istreated more tolerantly and more generously than his big sister, and frequentlymore so than, say, a younger brother ofa brother. The younger brother of a sister increasingly learns to understand his sister better, but he does so ultimately for his own purposes. He tends to take her help and motherly careas a matterofcourse. Ifhe cannot get what he wants, he finds ways to lure his sister or other girls into acting as mother on his behalf. A little pretense of helplessness or a minor compli- ment may alreadydo the trick. There are also good possibilities for identificationand interac- tion withtheparentsin thisconfiguration. Theolder sister canplay mother for herbrotherorher father; the brother, in turn,could play father for his sister and his mother. The sister does this, but the brother tends notto,and mayencountersome disapproval over his reluctance or tardiness. He is accused of selfishness and indiffer- ence. He does not think of others enough. He does whatever he pleases. He lets them help and wait on him. In conclusion,we cansaythatthe youngerbrother ofa sister and the older sister ofabrother both remainmoreinterested in contacts with peers of the opposite sex than of the same sex. Even outside the family the sister tends to wish to direct and care for boys and young men,whereasthebrother islikelytoentice girls and women to mother and spoil him while he continues to do what he wants without much regard for others. Parents, incidentally,tend to approve of such a course of devel- opment, since the brother is the younger and smaller one. Some parents are initiallydisturbed by the fact that the relationship be- tween their children is the converse of roles assumed in conven-
  29. 29. Persons Comprising a Family 15 tional families in thatthe daughterbecomes theleader and assumes responsibilities, whereas the son appears to be volatile, carefree, and reliant on others in everyday life situations. However, eventu- ally they become used to the idea. Theirresponse dependson their own experiences with siblings (see chapter 8). At worst, the chil- dren's identification with their parents will be hampered, in com- parison to other two-child family configurations. The parents' relationship with each other does not become the model for the re- lationship between their children. Thetwopairs regard each other with some surprise, but they do not substitute for each other. If, however, the parents themselves can accept the reversal of author- ity that they observe between theirchildren,possibly because they themselves have this kind of relationship with each other, then all those options for identification and interaction between parents and children are open that prevail in the relationship described abovebetween an olderbrother and hisyounger sister.Thesoncan play father—although not averyauthoritative father—for his sister and his mother and the daughter can play mother for her brother and her father. TWO SISTERS Two sisters are in yet another different situation. The older sister of a sister has also been around for an averageof three years before the younger sister isbom. Shehas anadvantage of height, strength, and intelligence over the little one that dimin- ishes only in the course of years. Like other oldest siblings, how- ever, she must cope with the shock of havinga competitor for her parents' time and attention. Depending on the age difference be- tween her and her sister, she may feel cheated ofher parents' affec- tion and loving care (when the difference is one or two years), shaken inher control over her parentsand inher"negotiating posi- tion"(whenthedifference istwoor threeyears),or she may feel her relationship to her father threatened by yet another rival for his
  30. 30. 16 FamilyConstellation love inaddition to her mother (when the twosistersare four or five years apart). Shenotices long before her little sister does that the three of them, mother, sister and herself, will have to share the fa- ther's affection and attention. The larger the age gap is between the two sisters, the more con- scious will the older girl be of her experiences of conflictwith her younger sister and with her parents; at the same time, it is that much easier for her to accept and handle these conflicts. Sooner or later she learns to overcome her jealousy and to assume responsi- bility for her little sister. She has to play a parental role for her, mostly thatofthemother.Shemay also become an idol forher little sister in the process, may order her around, and the little one will have to obey.Thisishow the parents wantit. Since the older sister also identifieswith the father, she is likely to treat her little sister a bit harshly at times. Theolder sister deals with her younger sister the way she has observed her father deal with her mother or with herself. Shenotices with astonishment, envy, and sorrow that her father is milderand more tolerant in his contacts withher little sis- ter than he iswith her motheror with herself. Shesuspects him of favoritism: she believes he loves the little sister more dearly than her mother or herself, The youngersister of asister grows up in an atmosphere of greater freedom than did the older sister, but she is also dependent upon her. At first she accepts the authorityofher big sister;she wants to emulate her;shehasno qualmsaboutbeing helped by her. Astime goes on,however, she tries to assert herself, to do things as well or even better thanshesees her sister do them, and to oppose her sis- ter. Theyoungersister ofasister learns how to resist and tooppose others, but she remains largely dependent upon their suggestions and ideas. Herownplansaremadeinresponse toplansofher sister and other membersof the family. Often she has to know what her big sister wants before she can tell what she wants herself. The younger sister is more likely than the older one to become the parents' darling,particularlyher father's. Theolder sister isex-
  31. 31. Persons Comprising a Family 17 pected to obey the parents, to identify with them, to renounce her wishes in favor of the younger child. Theparents remain more tol- erant vis-a-vis the younger one even after she has grown up. They donot insist asadamantly onobedience to themand totheirexam- ple as they do with their older daughter. They seem to havean un- conscious feeling that the younger oneis permitted to do what she likes; thus, they may even encourage their younger daughter tobe- come impulsive, ambitious, and obstinate. One can say, in summary, that both sisters learn about the rela- tionship between man and woman only indirectly, that is,only by observing their parents. Both sisters are better prepared for con- tacts with peersof the same sexthanwiththose of the opposite sex. Having been her father's favorite, however, theyounger sister hasa certain advantage in her dealings with boys and men. On the other hand, her ambition and competitiveness may undo her advantage. She seems to want too much.Shewants too many boys to like her, and at the same time she cannot resist competing with them. A PERSON WITH SEVERALSIBLINGS OF THE SAME TYPE The siblingpositions and their psychological and behaviorchar- acteristics also apply if a person has not one, but two or three sib- lings of the same type. The oldest brother of two or three sisters develops similar social preferences asdoes theolder brother ofjust one sister. The same is true for the youngest brother of several sisters. Inboth instances, though, thebrother's position maybe considered more pronounced than in a two-child family. He becomes more "precious" to the family because he isthe onlyboy, while there are several girls. Both the oldest brother of several sisters and the youngest brother ofseveral sisters obviously learn from several siblingswhat role they are to take.Theycome toknowmorefacets ofthe relation- ship between girls and boys. Theymay even learn how toplay one
  32. 32. 18 FamilyConstellation girl against another. This generally makes the characteristics of tiheir sibling positions clearer than those ofa brother ofbut one sis- ter, yet they are similar. The oldest brother of several brothers and the youngest brother of sev- eral brothers may also vary in their relationships to their siblings. The oldest brother is the oldest for all of them. Each brother has to establish some relationship with him. Each of them had for a time been the youngest, and for each of them he was and is the biggest among the brothers. Generally, his bigness becomes more impres- sive for a younger brother, the later his entry into the sibling con- figuration occurs. Similarly, the youngest brother is the youngest for all of them,although the oldest brother usuallygets used to his existence moreeasilythan,say, the second youngest. Here, too, we may expect that the oldest brother of several brothers is more dis- tinct in his characteristics than the oldest brother of a family with Just two boys. Similarly, the youngestbrother ofbrotherswill often appear to be more typical than the youngest brother of fust one older brother. The sameholds truefor girls. The oldest sister of several brothers is usually more caring, more responsible and ready for leadership vis-a-vis men thanisthe oldest sister ofbut one brother. Theyoung- est sister of several brothers often shows a greater need for depend- ence, but also seems to be more feminine and spoiled than the younger sister of onlyone brother. Theoldest sister of several sisters is more strongly identified with her parents or with her father and makes an even moredomineering appearance than does the older sister offust one sister.Theyoungest sisterof severalsisters tends to be even moreambitious, morein need ofguidance and more ready to take opposition than is the younger sister of one sister. Both the oldest and the youngest sister of several sisters are better used to dealing with persons of the same sex and less accustomed to con- tactswithmalesthan are the older or the younger sister ofjust one sister. In all these cases subgroups may form among the siblings. In a configuration of four children, for example, the oldest child may
  33. 33. Persons Comprising a Family 19 focus on one of his siblings, perhaps on the youngest or on the sec- ond youngest. Theother twosiblingsmayform a secondary group, A youngest sibling may lean heavily on one of his older siblings and ignore the others. AH this depends on aspects that will be dis- cussed in a later section ofthis chapter. Oneaspect, however, must be taken up at once. Just as the oldest child—who, after all, started out as a single child—may havebeen upset by the arrivalofasibling and may de- velop conflicts with him, the second child is upset by, and in con- flictover, the arrival ofthe third,and the n-thchildby the arrival of the (n+ l)th child. He (orshe) recognizesthathispart astheyoung- est isover,even ifhe does try tohold on toitfor a whilelonger.This is no longer much ofaproblem for the older siblings. Themoresib- lings they see arrive, the less they suffer from the arrival of each new one. It seems obvious that a child can accept his second youngest or third-youngest sibling more easily than the sibling immediately succeeding him. This is true at least if all successive siblings areof the same sex as the next youngest. In theiraffinities and affections among each other, siblings are sometimesinclined to skipthe clos- est in age among the younger ones. Amongfive siblings, forexam- ple, the first and the third may form one subgroup, the second and the fifth another, and the fourth child may remain an isolated or merely tolerated hanger-on of one of the subgroups. MULTIPLE SIBLING POSITIONS We havecome to knoweight typesofsiblingposition: the oldest brother of brothers, the youngest brother of brothers, the oldest brother ofsisters,the youngest brother ofsisters, the oldest sisterof sisters, the youngest sister of sisters, the oldest sister of brothers, and the youngest sister ofbrothers. Ifthereare more thantwo chil- dren in the family, the sibling configuration must be made up of one or more of these eight basic types. A given person in a sibling
  34. 34. Family Constellation configuration may simultaneously have several sibling relation- ships, not only of the same type, but of different types as well. Let us callthem multiple sibling positions.Wemayexpect that the sib- lingrelationships described for meeight basic types ofsibling posi- tions will combinein some fashion in multiple sibling positions.A person holding such a multipleposition may show characteristics and preferences ofsocial behavior that correspond to two or more of the basic types of sibling relationships. Multiple distal sibling positions are the multiplepositions held by the oldest or by the youngest siblings. Within the family situation, the oldest brother ofboth brothers and sisters can obviously learn howtoplaythesenior, howtolead and toassume responsibility for boys as well as for girls. Theyoungest brother ofbrothers and sis- ters gets used to being carefree and unconcerned vis-a-vis peers of both sexes. The oldest sister of brothers and sisters can act moth- erly,responsibly, and asaleaderwithboth boysand girls alike, and the youngest sister ofbrothers and sisters will be not only submis- siveand dependent, butalsoambitiousand opposing toward peers of both sexes. Multiple nondistal or middlesibling positions comprising two types of sibling relationships include the middle brother of brothers, the middlebrother ofan older brother and ayounger sister, the middle brother of an older sister and a younger brother, and the middle brother of two sisters. Iam sure the reader canvisualize forhimself whatcombinations of characteristics and behavior preferences can be expected with each ofthe middlepositions listed. Thesame would hold fora mid- dle sister, who may have sisters only, older brothers and younger sisters, older sisters and younger brothers, or brothers only. Middle siblingpositions comprising three types of relationships are all those just mentioned, with the addition of one of the two missing types of siblings. For example, a middle brother of older and youngerbrothersmayalsohaveolder sisters,oramiddle sister 20
  35. 35. Persons Comprising a Family 21 of olderbrothers and younger sistersmayalsohaveyounger broth- ers, etc. An observer may find it difficult to distinguish the charac- teristicsand preferences attributabletoeachofthese roles or sibling relationshipswhen there aresomanythatamiddlesibling mayas- sume among hisbrothers and/or sisters, literoles mingle, and the person in question does not hold a distinct position among his sib- lings. The more pronounced roles, such as those of the oldest girl, the oldest boy, the youngest girl, or tite youngest boy, have been taken by other siblings. This becomes most apparent with a person who has older and younger brothers as well as older and younger sisters. He is abso- lutely in the middle. He is prepared for all types of relationships; forthose witholder and withyoungerpeers, maleand femalealike. It can be expected that he will not feel unhappy with any type of relationship he may enter later inhis life, but he willnot be exuber- antly happy either. In any single given relationship to another per- son he might be missing all those respective relationships that remain unrealized. A middle brother of older and younger broth- ers as well as sisters who befriends an older sister of brothers for example, may miss being able to behave and respond the way he did to his younger sisters, and he may also miss the companyof boys and men. These middle siblings may feel overlooked or excluded even while they are still in the family. They think they notice that they matter the least amongtheir siblings. Hencetheymay long to leave the family earlier in life than theirsiblings would. Theymay move out, move far away,or opt for a professionalcareer quite different from that of the rest of the family. Families with many children naturallyhave more middle sib- lings than do families with fewer children.In thiscase it is impor- tant to note their position relative to the rest of the siblings. A person may have not only an older brotherand an older sister, but also three younger brothers and four youngersisters. By definition he holds a middle sibling position, but he is near the upper end in the age sequence of his siblings. Wecanassume thathe, more than
  36. 36. 22 Family Constellation other middlesiblings suchasthe third orfourth youngest inhis sib- ling configuration, may also become an identification figure for the younger ones, may assume roles of leadership and responsibility and identify withthe parents himself. On the other hand, the third or fourth youngest, who are also middle siblings by definition, but who are surrounded by a larger number of older than of younger siblings, may sooner learn to behave like younger siblings. In large sibling configurations, therefore, middle siblings may differ from other middle siblings.Theymay either be older middle siblings or younger middle siblings. THE SIZE OF A SIBLING CONFIGURATION Sibling configurations range from the single child, who will be discussed laterand maybesaid tohavenosibling position at all, to some fifteen children. Configurations of five or more children, however, occuronly in 10% of the families with children. In urban Central Europe, the average family has two or three children; the average family in the U.S.has three. In larger families, that is, those with five and more children, the number of middle siblings necessarily increases. With three chil- dren, there isone middle sibling, with four children there are two, with n children, there are n-2 middle siblings. The probabilityof multiple distal sibling positions increases atthesametime.Theold- estchild offoursiblings mayhavefour brothers, threebrothers and a sister, twobrothers and twosisters, onebrother and three sisters, or four sisters. There are a total of 24 different possibilities of ar- ranging four childreneach of whom may be either a boy or a girl. Apart from siblinggroups of four boys or of four girls, there are 14 other configurations containingboth sexes. Thus, the probabilityof an oldest siblinghaving brothers as well as sisters among four sib- lings is 14/16, or 87%. In contrast, if an oldest child has only two siblings,tihesemay be two brothers, a brother and a sister, a sister and a brother, or two sisters.Twoof these four setscontain siblings
  37. 37. Persons Comprising a Family 23 of only onesex,and twoofthemcontainbothsexes.Theprobability that the oldest of three siblings has brothers as well as sisters is therefore 2/4 or 50%, in other words, muchsmaller than with the oldest of four other siblings. If each siblingcan develop arelationshiptoeveryothersibling in his configuration, there is still only one relationship between two siblings. There are three relationships between three siblings, six between four, ten between five, or,generallyspeaking,(J)possible relationships between siblings. Among four siblings, say two brothers and two sisters,theoldest brotherhasa relationship tohis younger brother and to each ofhistwosisters,the younger brother to his older brother and also to each ofhis sisters, and so on. Thus there are twelve relationships but since each of these relationships comes up twice, the number mustbe divided in half. Onemay gather from thishow much morecomplicatedand vari- egated family life would have tobe in families withmany children as compared to those with few.Moreover,every child also devel- ops a relationship to his father and his mother,and all ofthese rela- tionships may differ from one another. It has been pointed out that families with many children have more middle siblings and those children, especially those abso- lutely in the middle, are in danger of being ignored and isolated. Their position seems to be too ambiguous.They represent some- thing different for each type ofsiblingtheyhave.The siblings with the moreprominent positions seem to feel thatthe middle siblings are there for all of them and therefore actually for none of them. This need not alwaysbe so. Rather largersibling configurations tend to split into subgroups. Sixsiblings may form two groupsof three children each. The fourth oldest could thusbecome a kindof oldest sibling himself:the oldest of the littleones. This type of splitting into subgroups depends among other things upon the age difference betweensiblings.The largerthe age difference isbetween two successive (adjacent) siblingsincompari- son with the age differences between the other siblings, the more likely will it effect a split in the sibling configuration, a separation
  38. 38. 24 Family Constellatiion intosubgroups, atprecisely thispoint.Iftheage difference between the first threeof sixsiblings were two years respectively,and if the fourth child were five years younger than the third, with the fifth and sixth again each two years younger than the next oldest, then the first threesiblings would probably form one subgroup and the next three another. There maybeother reasons for subdivision in larger sibling con- figurations, such as physical characteristics, intelligence, vitality, looks, and likenesses with other family members. These character- istics are generallyindependent ofthe characteristics ofsibling po- sitions. This point will be taken up later (page 64). Parents, too, may effect subdivisions. Their own preferences of social behavior may result in different amounts of time, attention, and favors that they give to different children. Parents may get alongbetter withsomeoftheirchildrenthanwithothers. Theymay be able to identify easily with some, and poorly with others. If, however, the child happens to be unconsciously preferred by one or both parents, he or she mayalso havegreater authorityover the siblings, may attract some and ignore others. The ways in which parents mayexert influences upon their children willbe dealt with separately in chapter 8. From what we have said so far it might seem as if smaller or larger configurations ofchildrensimplyexisted and exercised their effects or were themselves being affected in a relatively constant manner. Thismaybe so,once the parents have decided to have no more children. Until then, however, or, in other words, while the configuration of children is still changing, the parents determine what will happen not only by interacting with their children, but alsoby deciding to haveanotherchild either now or at a later date. The fact that the sex of the alreadyexisting children plays a role in the parents' decision to have more children has been clearly demonstrated in the actualbirth sequences. In a sample of family constellations taken in Niirnberg and Zurich (see also chapter 10),all those familieswhose child configu- rations started with a boy were singled out, as were all those fami-
  39. 39. Persons Comprising a Family 25 lies whose child configurationsstarted with a girl. Wethen tested how manymore children these families had. Those parents whose oldest child was a boy had an averageof 1.51 more children, those whose oldest child was a girlhad an averageof1.38more children. Next, we singled out those families whose configurations of chil- dren started with two boys or with two girls in succession. Two boys in succession were followedby an average of 1.07 children, whereas two girls in succession at the start were followed by only 0.71 children. Finally we singled out those familieswho had three boys initially and those who first had three girls. Three boys were followed by an average of1.06additionalchildren,three girls by an average of only 0.50 additionalchildren. According toappropriate statisticalfrequency tests, these differ- ences in number of subsequent children were highly significant (Toman 1971, Toman &Preiser 1973). Siblingconfigurations start- ingwithboysclearlytended tobe largerthanthose beginningwith girls. Whetherthis means thatparentswhosefirst children aregirls tend to stop having children sooner than other parents because they want a son but do not believethey will haveone, or whether parents whose first children are boys continueto have morechil- dren because they also wanta daughterisstill not known.It could also be that more "vital" parents, i.e., thosewhowant tohavemore children to begin with, happen to havemore boys. ONLY CHILDREN An only child has no sibling position. Oldest siblings havebeen single children for a whilebut weredethroned whentheir first sib- ling arrived. The only child, however, retainshis privileged posi- tion. His main contacts are his parents. They devote more time, more attention, more affection to him than parents do to a given child in a larger sibling configuration, even if these latter parents spend a larger total of time, attention, and affection on theirchil- dren. Anindividualchildhas toshareall that withothers and thus gets less forhimself.
  40. 40. 26 Family Constellation In his family, the only child is not or is only indirectly prepared forcontacts withpeers.Helearns howamanand awoman relate to each other byobserving hisparents,buthe has little opportunity to practice it with other children. Nursery school and kindergarten usually give him his first opportunity. It is here that only children experience the shock for the first time that they are not the only ones vying forthe adults' (the teachers') attention. However, they are only exposed to this disturbing situation for a few hours a day and not even every day of the week. At home they command their parents'entire attention. Children with siblings, on the other hand, havehad theirshock right inthe family and canaccept the presence of other children,evenofmanyother children such as in kindergar- ten or in school, more easily than only children can. Of course, single children toocan get accustomed to anew social environment, but they do so by establishing relatively stronger contacts with the teacher than with other children. Only children frequently know better than other children how to handle adults, or how to involve themfor theirown purposes. Thus they often im- press other children as being do-gooders, egotists, or the favorites of the adults. More thanother children of their age, only children look and act likelittleadultsthemselves. This isnot onlybecause they have usu- ally spent moretimewiththeir parentsman children whohavesib- lings, but also because they can learn how to behave toward a parent as the other parent would and not as another child does. There are noother children to identify with. Anonly child behaves toward his father the way his mother does, and vice versa. He can also makehis parents help and protect him and do things for him more readily thanother children canmaketheirparents. Onlychil- dren are the focus of their parents' attention anyway. They don't have to share their parents with other children. Cousins and other children maycometotheirhouse, to besure,buttheydon'tstay for long, and theonly child clearly recognizes that he does not have to compete with these other children for his parents' favor. Outside the family, only children often continue to get special
  41. 41. Persons Comprising a Family 27 treatment. As at home, they want to be in thelimelight under the guidance and protection of older people or people in positionsof authority. Theystrive to find recognition for whatthey want or do not want to do.Theycan attract"followers" and takeon leadership roles for their peers to the degree to which they identify with adults, with authority figures, or with subject matters. Bven then, they unconsciously value the understanding of their superiors more than that of those in their charge. An only child may differ from another onlychild. Thisdepends, among other things, upon the sibling position of his same-sex par- ent Ifthe father ofamaleonly child isan oldestbrother ofbrothers, through identificationwithhis father the sonmay assume features, attitudes, and preferences of an oldest brother of brothers. If the mother of a female only child is the youngest sister ofbrothers, the daughter will become a mixture of an only child and a youngest sister ofbrothers.Shemaybe less egotistical and moodythan other female single children. If the same-sex parent of an only child was an only child himself,then the child tends to show the characteris- tics and social behavior of an only child to a marked degree. There may be not only medicaland economic, but also psycho- logical reasons behind the parents' choice to have but one child. Conflicts among the parents, losses suffered byone or bothofthem in their early lives, or other traumatic conditions seem to discour- age parents from having more children. In these cases one might view the family with an only child as a mild form of a disturbed family. On the average, we can say that only children have been more poorly prepared for contacts with peers than children with any other sibling position; they prefer contactswith older persons or people in high positions, or with peers who are willingto play the role of father or mother for them, TWINS About 1 percent of all children bom are twins. In other words, they are rare. Triplets, quadruplets, or quintuplets are even rarer.
  42. 42. 28 Family Constellation Animals, however, frequently have twins, quintuplets, or even lit- ters oftenor twelve.Veryfewanimalsbearoneyoung ata time. But even if they do, the second-born does not become a sibling of the first-born theway ithappens inahumanfamily. Wewillcomeback to this subject in chapter 5 (p. 69). As a rule, twins live with each other from birth on. They have experiences thatare different from those of other siblings. Siblings with an age difference can avoid each other to some extent. De- pending on the size ofthat age difference, the older of two siblings is more-or-less established when the younger one is born. The younger one diverts a lot of his parents' attention to himself, but mere are areas, such as the general use of the house or the apart- ment, where the younger one cannot interfere at first. He sleeps more and at different timesthan the oldest sibling and the parents, he isfedat different times, he cannotyet run around the house, etc. At dinner, on walks, on the playground, on the way to and from kindergarten or school the younger one is usually not present. This is different with twins. They are always a twosome. They are born practically at the same time, even if the family tends to "force" one ofthem to be the older and the other the younger one. Two ordinary siblings are also a twosome, but the older one has had several yearsofexperienceasa single child. He knowswhat he has lostand whathedislikes about hissibling. He can wish him (or her) "to get lost," since he has known a time when he was "lost," that is, nonexistent. In contrast, the youngest sibling has consider- abledifficulties imagining life withouthis older sibling. Hemay get an inklingofitthrough identifyingwith his older sibling, by vicari- ous action orimitation. Inthatcase, he mayeven adopt the waysin which the older sibling tries to solve his conflicts with him. Twins cannot do that. Developmentally they are on the same level. Neither has the advantage of greater physical or mental power, or experience. Theycan learn little from each other in their dealings with their physical and social environment that they would not learnallby themselves. What theycan do, however, is to resist control by others, and even to manipulate others themselves
  43. 43. PersonsComprising a Family 29 by acting alike and "in collusion." They are two, and mat helps. Other children have to do it alone. We have already indicated that the environment tries to handle twins as if they were ordinary siblings. The family appoints oneof the twins to be the older and the other to be the younger sibling, even if they are identical twins. In cases of nonidentical twins, the age difference (ofperhaps half an hour) or likenesses with certain family members, differences in physical height, intelligence, or vi- talitymay playa part.Ifthe twinsareaboyandagirl (which means that they are definitely nonidentical twins), the authority-prefer- ences of the parents tend to determine what age ranks the twins willbe given. Ifthe father was theoldest and themother the young- est among their siblings, they are likelyto makethe boy the senior and thegirl thejuniorsibling even iftheir actualbirthorder was the reverse. In such a way twins who have no other siblings may assume characteristics of the basic types of sibling positions. Yetmore fre- quently they meet the world as a pair, especially ifthey are identi- cal twins. They have always been a pair, and they find it hard to imagine life without the other. Therefore they take longer than other siblings toseparate in their youthoradulthood. Morethan do others,they seek out siblings or eventwins forfriendsaswell as for lovers and spouses. Twins may have other siblings. In thatcase,both ofthem takeon the characteristics of the social behavior thata single person would in their sibling position. When the twins are, say, the oldest boys and have two younger sisters and a younger brother, they learn to take the roles ofoldest brothers ofbrothersand ofsisters.When the twins are girlsand havecomeafter an oldest sister,bothofthem are likely to assume the features of younger sisters of sisters. What has been said of twins applies fortripletsand quadruplets as well. Their relationships to each other, however,are more com- plex and variegated. They also remain more detached from other siblings, if they have any, thando twins.Theymean morework for the parents,tobe sure. They really do taketheirparents away from
  44. 44. 30 I^milyConsteilaagn their siblings to a greater extent than twins do. The other siblings notice thisand try to put up a common front against the triplets or quadruplets. Triplets and quadruplets are so rare that it is difficult to recog- nize and confirm common trends. The environment responds to quadruplets—and especially to quintuplets—with greater interest than to twinsorindividualchildren. Therareevent mobilizes agen- cies, the mass media, and donors with or without ulterior motives, allofwhom maybring about a drastic change in the life of thefam- ily concerned. Therefore we will say no more about triplets, quad- ruplets, or quintuplets. In their relationship with each other, twins should be viewed as siblings. One should try to determine by observation and inquiry which one plays the part of the senior, of the sibling in charge, and which one plays the part of the junior, of the impulsive and de- pendent one. Beyond that one also has to find out the position the twins mighthave among their other siblings. Both twins are likely to adopt thesocial behavior and interaction preferences that corre- spond to their overall sibling position. AGE DIFFERENCES We have already discussed age differences between siblings (p. 9ff and p. 23f). The conflicts arising between successive siblings vary according to the age difference between them. When theyoungest sibling isborn onlyone or two years after the oldest,the lattersees his siblingasa rival for thecare, attention, and affection ofhisparents as wellas fortheir free gifts and favors, even for food. When thedifference in ageis three or four years, the older of two siblings feels threatened in his power and control over his parents. Greed for food and the need for affection and help are less impor- tant now. Theolder sibling is irked by the fact that the parents set up tasks for him (orher),butnot for the younger one. He must offer
  45. 45. Persons Comprising a Family 31 returns for parental favors, whereas the younger one gets them for free. Theolder sibling recognizes, however, that he canalso get re- turns from his parents, among other things, for helping and pro- tecting the younger sibling. If two siblings are four or five yearsapart, the older onehas usu- ally learned to respond sex-specifically to his parents and to other peoplebythe time the younger onearrives.Anatmosphere ofcom- petition and powercontinues toprevailindealings with personsof the samesex, albeit ina morecivilized form thanbefore, but there is now moreofan atmosphere oftenderness, courtship, orwaiting for such attention in contactswith persons oftheopposite sex,Aboy or a man should treat a girl or a womannicely, Agirl should appear pretty and gentle and maypass out favors or withhold themas she pleases. A boy may not. Men and women seem to come in pairs. Father and mother are also such a pair. The child himself might form such a pair with one of his parents, even better with another child, say, his sibling. This is how childrenof four and five begin to see things. If this is really the case, it seems possible that the older sibling may recognize the sex of his younger sibling in its consequences right from his birth, and not merely a fewyearslater, asdo siblings with smaller age differences. The family situation can improve or worsen depending on thesex ofthe second-born. Thechild's family changes to either one with threepersons ofonesex and one person of the other whose attentionand affection willbesought even more vehemently, or to a family of two persons of one sex and two per- sons of the other sex. The latter case may smooth things out. If the age difference between successive siblings is six or more years, the two tend to become something less than fullfledged sib- lings foreach other.Theolder oneishardlyaffected by the younger child. He (or she) has started to go to kindergarten or school and has already set up his domain orterritoryat home.Not onlycan he do without his parents for the time he spends in classes; even at home he has no insatiable need for parentalattention. It takes per- haps another two yearsbefore theyoungersiblingcanseriously get
  46. 46. 32 Family Constellation inhisway.Atthattime,though,the older child isengaged inactivi- tiesand concerned about"property"and possessionsofa kind that do not automatically attract the younger sibling's spontaneous in- terest and wants. At any rate, siblings who are sixor more years apart tend to be- come quasi-only children, unless one or both of them happen to be surrounded byother siblings thatare closer inage. Ifthree children, each of whom is two years apart from his nearest sibling, were to getanother sibling who, forexample,was eight years younger man theyoungest ofthem,thischildwould become aquasi-only child. It isunlikelythattheother threewillbeinfluenced in their sibling po- sition asmuchby thenewcomeras theywereby eachother. Ifaboy has turned ten years old before getting two sisters in quick succes- sion, he is likely to be a quasi onlychild, even though also bearing some featuresof an oldest brother of sisters. Generally speaking, small age distances tend to bind siblings morestrongly to each other.Thisis trueeven when theycannot re- solve some oftheir conflicts with each other and suffer from them, perhaps unconsciously. Thelarger the age distance is, the less the siblings will affect each other, but they will usually be that much more awareof,and articulateabout, their conflicts.These conflicts are resolvable, as a rule. The fact that such siblings express their conflicts may makeit seem as if they were more severe than those between siblings of smaller age differences. This impression is often wrong. The actualand effective conflictsbetween siblings of smaller agedifferences are usuallydeeper and harder toreconcile. An older sibling tends to determine the character of his sibling relationship to a greater extent than does a younger sibling. The younger onecreatesanewsituationand aconsiderable problem for the older sibling by his merearrival, but the older sibling decides more or less in unison with his parents how to interpret the new family situation and how to continue shaping it. The greater the number of older siblings the newborn encounters, the less can he (or she) do himself in terms of interpreting and shaping the family situation. Theolder siblings rearrangetheirrelationships witheach
  47. 47. Persons Comprising a Family 33 other and decide among themselves how theirnew sibling is to be incorporated andwhomayor should devotemoretimetoMm than the rest. A newborn is ignorant at first of all these "negotiations" and usually hasno otherchoicebuttoaccepttheroleimposed upon Mm, at least for the time being. If the newcomeris the only one of his sex, though, or if,because oflooks, special talents, or an excep- tionally happy disposition, he or she has becomeparticularly dear to me parents, he or she may exert a greater influence than usual over his older siblings and takea moreactiverole in shaping their family life. Of course even then it takes the parents' support to be- come all that influential. Small age differences result in stronger ties amongsiblings than large age differences both in large sibling configurations and in smaller ones. Thisimplies thatimmediate siblings, thatis,those ad- jacent in age, are likely to influence eachotiher more strongly than nonadfacent siblings, that is, those who are farther apart from each other in their sibling configuration. Thisistrueevenwhena sibling seems to skip the next oldest or the next youngest in his affection and turns to the second-next oldest or second-next youngest in- stead. This skipping may happen for good psychological reasons, but thenonspontaneousor reactivecharacterofsuch asibling pref- erence often does not escape a careful observer's notice. If three brothers haveasister and stillanotherbrother,theshockofthe arri- val ofanother sibling could be particularlysevere for the third-old- est, because everybody else in the family will be delighted about the birtih ofa girl Forthe two older brothers this is not the first ex- perience of a shock over a newcomer; they canprobably handle it with greater ease titan the third-oldest and respond positively to their little sister. The third-oldest, because of his mixed feelings, may have had no chance to hit it off with her. In contrast, he may have much less of a problem with the fifth child, the youngest brother. Hehas fewer reservations abouthim,canturntohim with more composure and, as a consequence, the two may form a stronger attachment to each other than to the rest of their siblings. Wemay suspect, though, that the third-oldestbrother and perhaps
  48. 48. 34 FamilyConstellation tihe youngest brother toomaybe glancing with envy at the happy harmony prevailingamongtheother three or at least among two of the other three. Their own attachment to each other may appear second-rate compared to theirs. Thethird brother would rather be attached to his next oldest brother, if that brother had not turned away from him, and to his younger sister, if his older brothers had not snatched her for themselves. The influence in a sibling configuration of nonadjacent siblings upon one another will besmallerthe greater the number of siblings positioned between them in age. It will also be smaller, however, the greater the age difference isbetween two siblings regardlessof how manysiblings are between them, ifany.The influence of such a distant sibling may be enhanced under two conditions. He can take the father'sor the mother's place for the other child.This may be because one parent has been lost or because there are so many children in the family that the oldest may be fifteen or twentyyears older than the youngest. Or a sibling may take the position of a child vis-a-vis anothersibling.These two conditions are not neces- sarily mutual. The fact that small age distances among siblings result in stronger ties than large age distances also implies that, of the two siblings adjacent to a person, the siblingcloser in age is likely to be moreinfluential. Amiddlesister withabrother twoyearsolder and anotherbrothersixyearsyoungerthanherself willbecomemoreof a youngest sister ofbrothers than of an older sister of brothers (see also p. 187). Age differences between children and parents and between the parents themselves are also important. On the average, the oldest child is about 28 or 29 years younger than his father and 25 or 26 yearsyounger thanhismother.Theyoungest child isan averageof seven years younger than the oldest. If there are more than three children, these age distances from the parents and from other sib- lings tend to be smaller (see chapter1). If parents are considerablyolder than this, if there is an age gap of say 40 years and 37 years respectively between them and their
  49. 49. Persons Comprisinga Family 35 oldest child, contacts with the child tend to be less intimate.These parents are inclined to be either stricter and more authoritarian than parents of average ages in relation to their children's ages, or too over-protective and permissive. Often such parents have only one child. They may be more likegrandparents to their child than ordinary parents would. If parents are considerably youngerthan the average,perhaps 20 and 17or 20and 18years old when their first child is born, they are frequently reluctant to assume their parental roles. Often they let things take their course. They may not concern themselves much with their children but leavethem to the care ofsomeone else. Un- der fortunate circumstances this someone may be their own par- ents. Even if these very young parents do keep their children themselves, they tend to become big brothers and sisters rather than parents for them. The grandparents of the children, or other people who are taking care of them, tend to become their psycho- logical parents. Grandparents, however, are often lessconsistent in their dealings with their grandchildren than are the parents. They either spoil them or they are more indifferent and less available to them. In some instances they may literally want their grandchil- dren to leave them alone. One of the characteristics of the family backgrounds of young delinquents and criminalsascompared to thatofthe averageyouth turned out tobe the relativelyold ageand the relativelyyoung age of their parents. Often at least one parent was either over 50or less than 20years old when the person in questionwas born (Toman& Preiser, 1973). The average age difference between the parents is about three years. In the large majority of cases the husband is older than the wife. Only in 15%of all cases is the wife older than the husband. If the age difference between spouses is 10or 15years, the older spouse (usually the husband) takes a parental rather than a part- ner's role toward the younger spouse, at least in certain areas and aspects of their family life. The husband behaves somewhat like a father toward his wife. Shebecomes bothhiswife and hischild, and
  50. 50. 36 Family Constellation if they havechildren of their own, they may be a bit like grandchil- dren to him. Ifsuch a marriagesucceeds, the wife has usually had psychological reasons for looking for a father rather than a peer in marriage.Shemayhavelosther own fatherearly in life, or she may have lost her mother and had to take her place in the family. If the wife is considerably older than the husband, her part in their relationship tends tobe that ofa mother rather than ofa part- nerorpeer,and thehusband islikelytowantjust that Hemayhave reasons deriving from his own family constellation, and so might she. Thechildren insuch a family recognize sooner or later who the head of the family isand to whom they had better turn: to mother. Their father ismoreof a companion who mightget their mother to help them, but who is often not too helpful by himself.
  51. 51. Changes in Family amily constellations change during the course of time. The family members grow older. In an objectivesense, this occurs uni- formly: everyone ages by the same number ofyears. Subjectively, however, the rates of growing oldervary for different family mem- bers.Intwo years achild4yearsofagegrows olderby 50per centof his originalage, a child of8yearsby25per cent,a youngadult of20 years by 10 percent. Thesubjectiverateofaging (a),whichmay also reflect physicaland psychological growthprocesses,canbe viewed as a function of the difference between the new age (fa) and the original age (ti) on the one hand and the original age (ti) on the other: a=(t2-ti)/tj. Inother words,youngfamily memberschange faster in the course of time than do older family members, particu- larly parents. Even the influences that a newborn member of the family may exert on the relationships between the other family members are likely to be greatest in the beginning and tend to dwindle as he grows into the family. The "establishment" of indi- viduals with much slower subjective growth rates and a much longer span of their relationships to each other than to the new- comer tends to prevail. 37 Constellations 3 F
  52. 52. 38 Family Constellation Changes within family constellations during the course of time are basically similar for different families, live addition of a new family memberthroughbirthor thefact that the family has reached its final configurationaffects alt families in comparable ways. There are, however, special cases of changes in the family that requireattention. Families maynot onlyincrease their membership bybegetting andbearingstill another child.Theymayalso takein a foster-child or adopt a child. Moreover, parents may separate and marry others, single persons as well as individuals who had been married before. Thus the children may not only get a new parent, but also new siblings who could be either half-brothers and half- sisters or step-brothers and step-sisters. Finally, family members may leave for periods of time or for good, either because of long travels or business relocations, or because of legal separation, di- vorce,or death.Thesechangeswillbedealt withinthenext section. LOSS OF FAMILY MEMBERS In an average of 10per cent of all families, a person is likely to permanently lose a parent during his childhood or youth.The par- ent may die or separate himself from the family for good either by divorce or withoutlegal formalities,or he may havebeen missing since birth. In8out of 10instances the person lost is the father, in 2 out of 10cases it is the mother. Siblings mayalso be lost through death or separation. Loss of a sibling duringaperson's childhood or youthoccursin 10 percentof the familieswith children. Regardless of whether such losses of family members occur through death, orchronicillness and hospitalizetion,separation, or abandonment of a family member, they represent significant changes in aperson's family constellation. Theyaffect the life expe- riences ofallmembers ofthe family, not somuchby the occurrence of the event ofloss itself asby the lost person's permanent absence. Psychologists are inclined to argue that nothing can be said
  53. 53. Changes in Family Constellations 39 about the effect of the lossof a person until those who suffered the loss have been questioned. This is only partly true. For example, one can maintain without questioning anyonethat life will go on for aEmembersof the family withoutthe person whohasbeen lost. There can be no more direct interactions with the lost person. No further immediate experiences withthelost person arepossible,al- though during the course of mourning the lost person may be talked about a lot and facets and aspects ofthat person may be dis- cussed thatwere unknowntosomemembersofthe family. No fam- ily member can speak to the lost person any more;noone can get a response from him. This state of the permanent absenceofa family member starting from a certain point in time can strikeone family sooner than an- other. A given loss may be suffered by one family member at an early age and by another memberat an older age. Asibling may be 2years old at the timeofloss, another16. Theperson lost may be an 8-year-old sister or the 46-year-old father. The sibling lost may be one of two or one of ten children.If a parent has been lost, the re- maining parent may soon form a new tie,may not do so for a long time, or may never do so. The substituteparent that he or she re- cruits maybe a familiar person ora perfect stranger. Heor she may belikeorunliketheperson lost.Thesubstituteparentmayenter the family aloneor bring withhim a retinueofchildren. Ifasibling has been lost, the parents may beget another child or adopt one. Without asking the individuals concerned,we may assume that these and other varieties of losses of family members are likely to have different effects. Theychangethe life situationof a family in a specific way. The changed life situation,in turn, gives rise to spe- cific experiences. We may anticipate, moreover, that two families with similar compositions of people and exposed to similar losses of family members would subsequently find themselves in life situations that also bear resemblances. At least someof the experiences of the changed life situation will be similarin those two families.Ifboth families had lost their father, the family membersare not likely to
  54. 54. 40 Family Constellation behave as iftheyhad lost theirmother, a sibling, or no one. In both families a 5-year-old daughter will have a different experience of lossthana 12-year-old son. The similarityoftheir experience ofloss may be greater for the 5-year-old daughters in these two families even though eachofthem has actuallylost a different person, than the similarity of the experience of loss suffered by the 5-year-old daughter and the 12-year-old son in one and the same family, even though they have lost the identical person. Folklore, too, seems to indicate that a substitute parent, such as a stepfather or a step- mother, has certain things in common with other stepparents re- gardless of the circumstances,the time, and the kind of family into which they enter. We should remind ourselves that we have been implying all along that oldest brothers ofbrothers have common characteristics with other oldest brothers of brothers, that youngest sisters of brothers have common characteristics with other youngest sisters of brothers-characteristics that they may not share with their re- spective siblings in spite of the fact that they are all related and live in thesame family context.Ofcourse, thereare other characteristics thattheymightsooner sharewiththeirsiblings thanwith unrelated persons who happen to have the same sibling position. Such char- acteristics includethe family idiom,physicallikenesses, similarities in intelligence, vitality,etc. (see p. 63f). Apart from permanent losses of persons, there are also tempo- rary and partial losses. Temporary losses areabsences of family members for a certain pe- riod of time. Theabsence isterminated by the lost person'sultimate return to the family. Thismay be a matter of days, weeks, months, or years. Temporary losses may be treated like permanent losses while they last. The earlier in a child's life such a temporary loss occurs, the harder it is for a child to distinguish such a temporary loss from a permanent loss, although older family members might know from thestarthow long the person'sabsence isgoing tobe.In his immediate experience the temporary loss and the permanent loss are about the same for the child.
  55. 55. Changes in Family Constellations 41 Partial losses are lossesof certain (positive) characteristics or as- pects ofa person in the family. Achild maylearnthathis father can also throw a tantrum, that he drinks, or that he was once injail, or that his mother had been marriedbefore. The child loses thebelief that his fattier is always kind and controlled, thathe isa sober per- son or thatheisa man withoutacriminalrecord,or thathis mother has loved no other man than his father. We may call such losses qualitative partial losses.One can also speak of partiallosses when a family member, say the father or a siblingwho used to be around every day, happens to be home only on weekends—perhaps be- cause ofthe father's extended business tripsorthesibling's transfer to a boarding school—or when a family member falls ill and no longer helps in the house, but rather needs help himself. These losses are actually changed forms of the presence of family mem- bers. Theywill concern usmoreata laterpoint. Wemightcall these losses temporal partial losses, Partial losses are harder to evaluatethan are permanent losses. They may require additional information and interpretations.This is particularlytrue of qualitative partiallosses. Permanentor tem- porary losses, on the other hand, can be described and distin- guished rather well by a few objective characteristics. The most general effect of the lossoffamily membersisprobably the insecurity that the person suffering the loss displays thereafter in his relations to other people. Thegraver the loss, the greater the insecurity of the bereaved in his present and future social relation- ships. Losses of persons are moresevere, in turn: a. the more recently they have occurred, b. the earlier in a person's life they have occurred, c. theolder the person lost is(inrelation totheoldestfamilymember), d. the longer a person has lived together with the lost person, e. the smaller the family, f. the greater the imbalance of sexes in the family resulting from the loss, g. the longer it takes the family to find a replacement for a lostperson,
  56. 56. 42 FamilyConstellation h. the greater thenumber oflosses,and the graver the losses,that have occurred before. These rules apply for permanent as well as temporary lossesof persons. When losses are temporary, rule g must be modified ac- cordingly. It is not the time that elapses beforea substitute for the lost person canbefound, but thetimebefore thelostperson himself returns, thatmustbeconsidered (seeToman 1961; Toman&Preiser 1973). Rule c implies that the loss of a parent is considerably graver than the loss of a sibling, the loss of a much older sibling is graver than the loss of a slightly older sibling. This corresponds well to clinical-psychological observations of losses and their effects. Rule d implies, amongother things, that is is easier for a person toget over the loss ofa considerably younger sibling than over that of aslightlyyoungerone. Butitalsoimplies that thelossofa sibling older than oneself ispsychologically harder to takethan the loss of any sibling younger than oneself. This is plausible in view of the fact that one has usually lived with a sibling older than oneself all of one's life but with a sibling younger than oneself only for as long as that sibling has lived.Be- sides, an older sibling has alwaysknown a time when the younger sibling was not yet around. If he is irked by the arrival of his younger sibling, which is true in most cases, he also has an idea of how this situation could be remedied: namely, by restoring the original state ofaffairs or, in other words, by transporting the new- comertowherehewasbefore hewasborn. Havingexperienced the desired state of affairs in reality, the oldest sibling is better able to cope withhis wish to get rid of the other. Theyoungest sibling as a rule has never lived without the older one. He cannot organize his feelings of rivalry and annoyancewith his older sibling into a wish to be rid of him, and then suppress that wish, as well as the older sibling can. The younger sibling has never seen such a state of af- fairs in reality. He has never been wttihout the other. Hence, if he
  57. 57. Changes in Family Constellations 43 losesthe other, the younger siblingisoften at anutter lossandmore agitated than an older sibling would be. The validity of ruled is supported by Freud's concept of mourn- ing overlosses (Freud 1916;alsoToman 1968,1978).TTtelonger one has lived with a person, the more one has learned about him, the more one has got used to his presence, and me harder it is, mere- fore, to forget him and one's experienceswith him and to get used tohis (future) absence. Theseverityofalosscanbe estimated by the length of mourning that a person needs in order to get over it. While still mourning, one is distracted from other tasks and con- cerns in one's life and thus appears insecure. Even so, it is fre- quently difficult for an outside observer to tellwhen the period of mourning is over. The insecurity of a person who has suffered the loss of a family member ismore clearlynoticeableinmedifficulties thatthe person encounters when entering new social relationships. Aperson who has suffered a loss knows, not merelytheoretically but from bitter and painful experience, that losses are possible. Losses may occur again. As a result, the bereaved person who has suffered such losses unconsciously clings to the old or enters into new ties with other individuals more anxiously, more hastily and less critically than other people do. He also more frequently titan not chooses friends from among those persons who havesuffered losses them- selves—alsopersons by whomhecanbe moreeasily left thanother people orwhomhehimself canmoreeasilyleavethanhecanothers (Toman 1961). If we view neurotic symptoms and delinquent behavior among children and youths as indicatorsofdisturbances in their social de- velopment, and ifwe assume, moreover,that suchdisturbances are amongthe possibleconsequences oflosses offamily members,then we would expect children or youths who are demonstrably neu- rotic or delinquent tohave experienced early losses offamily mem- bers more frequently man has the averagechild or youth.Thiscan be demonstrated. Lessthan oneper cent ofthe children and youths in the general population have lost theirmotherbefore theythem-
  58. 58. 44 Family Constellation selves turn 6 years of age. In contrast, 4 percent of those children and youths who had consulted psychological counseling centers, and 8percent ofthoseyoutihswho were injailor in reformatories at the time of the investigation had suffered such losses. Losses of their mothers inearlyyouth—between their 6thand their 14th year of age—were five times morefrequent among neurotic youths and three times more frequent among delinquent youths than in the general population (1%).Losses of fathersduring their first 6 years of life were also twiceas frequent among neurotic youngsters and three times as frequent amongyoungsters in reformatories or jails than among youngsters in general (who showed a 5 percent fre- quency of such a loss). Losses of their fathers occurring between their 6th and 14thyear oflife were twiceas frequent among young delinquents than among the average youths (with whom such a loss had an empirical probabilityof 6 percent). Neurotic youths, however, did not differ. As for separation from the family, not necessarily as a conse- quence of theparents' divorceor the death of a parent, the follow- ingdata wereobtained:90percent ofthe averageyouthshad never left their parents. This was trueof neuroticand criminalyouths in only 30percent of the cases. Neuroticchildren and youngsters had had an average of two residences away from home, delinquent youngsters eventhree(often these residences wereinboys'or girls' homes), whereas a youthin the general population had had practi- callyno (moreprecisely 0.2)residences away from home(Toman & Preiser 1973). Even early losses of family members thathad not been suffered by the children themselves but by their parents during their child- hood showed demonstrable effects. Ofthe mothers ofneuroticchil- dren, 9 percent had lost a parent during their first 6years of life. In the population in general, this was true of only 3 percent of the mothers. Only rudimentary evidence was available about tihe mothers ofyoungdelinquents.Often those delinquents knewsolit- tle about theirmothers and theirmothers' parents thatit could not
  59. 59. Changes ta Family Constellations 45 be established whether their mothershad orhad not suffered early losses of a parent. Whatmay be said, however, is that delinquent youths knew significantly less about their parents than did the av- erage youths. Furthermore, it could be shown of the population at large that spouses,atleastoneofwhomhad suffered theloss ofaparent in his or her childhood, tended to have married about a year later than spouseswhohad suffered nosuchlosses. Ifahusband had suffered toe loss of a parent in his early youth (between 6 and 14years of age), he was likely tohave married twoyears later than other men. Wives who had suffered this kind of a loss, however, showed no such delaying effect in their marriagedates. Even children's performances in school proved to be influenced by the loss offamily members.Itcouldbedemonstrated thatgrade- school children who had lost a parent had significantly poorer school grades than did the averagechild.Incontrast, childrenwho had suffered no such loss, but oneofwhose parents had lost a par- ent in theirchildhood, had significantly bettergrades thanthe aver- age child (Zielinski 1966). This might be interpreted as a result of increases inachievementmotivation thatparents who had suffered early lossesofa parent themselvesseem unconsciously toimpart to their children. The best remedy for the loss of a person would be to replace the lost person bya person assimilartohimaspossible, and todo soas soon as possible. Such "most similar" persons, however, are as a rule hard to find.Ifsuch a person who issimilar in everyrespect or practically identical with the person who was lost, say a parent, could be recruited—as might be possible with a sibling or even a twin ofthe lost parent, then the substitute person could be psycho- logically acceptable to the bereaved soon after the loss has oc- curred, perhaps even immediately after it. In most instances, however, the loss of a person requires an extensive period of mourning and waiting. This period is usually more extensive the longer one has lived with the lost person, and the less the person
  60. 60. 46 Family Constellation coming up asaneventual substitute resembles the person who has been lost. In some instances it ishard to tell whether a lossis permanent or not. Ifa divorced father visits his children once infive years, he isas good as permanently lost. Evenif he comes regularly every month, his influencemaybe practicallynil, depending on how the family views him and his visits. He, too, may be like a permanently lost father. Ifnot,he isat least a verydifferent father than he wasbefore the divorce. Onemay say that the children have suffered a tempo- ral partial loss of their father. Conversely, a dead father, perhaps one who was killed in the war or in an accident throughno fault ofhis own and who will cer- tainly never return to the family, may maintaina certain presence in the minds of his wife and his children. They may speak about him frequently and stayincontactwiththe father'sparents and sib- lings. In thisway,his (posthumous)effect may be greater thanthat of a divorced father who comes for visits. Even so, as mentioned before, there is no way of having new direct experiences with a dead father, whereas with a divorced father there is. Whatmight happen, however,isthat abrother ofthe dead father, an uncle, that is, or the father'sfather, may assume the father's role vis-a-vis the children,at leasttoacertainextent. Intheeyes ofthe children, how- ever, these people, too, soon tend to become individuals in their own right. All the talk and recollection about their father cannot prevail in theend inthechildren's minds against the actualand en- during contacts with their uncle or with their grandfather. Wewilldealwiththese and related complications inthenext sec- tion. Thereisanother importantcase, however, thatwe should dis- cuss now.Suppose someone doesnot merely loseafamily member, say a father, but hehas never had one. His father had been missing sincebirth.Onemightthinkthatsuchasituation islesspainful than thelossofaperson withwhom onehas lived forwhile,and that the effects ofsuchasituation are milder. Theopposite, however, seems to be true. A child, say a boy who grows up without his father, does not

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