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Fam Process. 1996 Jun;35(2):115-36.

Intrusiveness and closeness-caregiving: rethinking the concept of family "Enmeshment".

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California School of Professional Psychology, Alameda CA 94501, USA.


This article analyzes the concepts of "enmeshment" and "cohesion" and their entanglement in the field of family therapy. Early theories in this area were concerned primarily with processes of self/other differentiation. More recent theories have favored spatial metaphors that emphasize closeness-distance. We contend that self/ other differentiation and closeness-distance are different classes of behavior and that their linkage in the literature has obscured useful distinctions. Our analysis reveals two separate dimensions that clinicians and researchers should consider: Intrusiveness (including coercive control, separation anxiety, possessiveness/jealousy, emotional reactivity, and projective mystification); and Closeness-Caregiving (including warmth, time together, nurturance, physical intimacy, and consistency). We give definitions of these constructs and briefly examine their clinical and gender-related implications.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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