Mending the Broken Bough: Restoring the Promise of the Mother-Daughter Relationship

Barbara Zax, Author, Stephan Poulter, Joint Author
Barbara Zax, Author, Stephan Poulter, Joint Author Berkley Publishing Group $13 (291p) ISBN 978-0-425-16318-4
Reviewed on: 06/29/1998
Release date: 07/01/1998
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Drawing from their clinical work as a psychologist and marriage/family therapist, respectively, Poulter and Zax examine the ""powerful"" relationship between mothers and daughters. In the context of many specific case stories, they identify ""family roles and rules"" that guide and limit both generations of women, with positive and negative consequences. The authors describe six ""mothering styles"" (me first, supermom, always look good, distracted, empathic and responsive) and five ""levels of family functioning"" (optimal, adequate, mid-range, borderline and chaotic or severely disturbed). Zax and Poulter illuminate the influence of mothers passed down through many generations of daughters, and offer ""Mending Moves"" for healing some conflicts that, they say, commonly arise. Offering the theory that all families operate on a continuum of emotional involvement from ""enmeshed"" to ""disengaged,"" they present the ""process of separation"" (in which a daughter moves on to live her own adult life) as always being problematic and potentially explosive for both mother and daughter. While many women may recognize themselves to some extent in these pages, and while many may value the book's practical advice, the authors too often seem stuck in dated (Freudian) assumptions and stereotypes. Other books, including Cokie Roberts's We Are Our Mothers' Daughters (Forecasts, March 30) and Mary Pipher's Reviving Ophelia (1994), have examined the realities of today's mothers and daughters with more panache or depth. (July)
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