The Rejection-Intrusion Pattern: A Central Family Dynamic


  • Augustus Y. Napier

    1. Augustus Y. Napier, PhD, is Assistant Professor of Child and Family Studies, School of Family Resources and Consumer Sciences, University of Wisconsin, 1300 Linden Drive, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, and Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, University of Wisconsin.
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A pattern common to marital breakdown and divorce is described in which one partner seeks closeness and reassurance while the other desires separateness and independence. The roots ofthese dynamics in the spouses' families of origin are discussed. One partner is seen as having been rejected or abandoned as a child, while the other was intruded upon or engulfed by the parents. The polarized pattern which later develops in marriage serves the purposes of identity definition, intimacy regulation, and defense against covert anxieties. Recommendations for family therapy are treated briefly.