Chapter 8: Developing Parent-Child Intimacy

The Intimate Marriage
by Howard J. and Charlotte H. Clinebell

Chapter 8: Developing Parent-Child Intimacy

Each of us is the product of what has happened in countless generations of families before us; each of us in turn will inevitably affect the lives of our children, grandchildren and great-grand- children for as long as mankind exists.

Clifford Kirkpatrick, The Family (1)

...............marriage begins in infancy.

Levy and Monroe in The Happy Family (2)

The capacity for intimacy is catching. In the early days and weeks and months of a child's life, long before he is aware of himself as a separate person, he is absorbing fundamental patterns, ways of relating and feelings about relating, which will influence him throughout his life. Long before he can interpret the sights he sees or the sounds he hears, they are becoming part of his own way of being. Every child comes into the world with a unique heritage of humanness. The manner in which his parents and older siblings respond to his individuality helps to determine whether he will be a person who relates to others intimately or distantly. The family which provides an environment of healthy intimacy, an intimacy that includes respect for autonomy and distance, provides the child with a climate in which he can develop the strong sense of identity so basic to his own capacity for intimacy. The vital responsibility of the parents, then, is to create through their own relationship of intimacy an atmosphere which both envelops the child in its warmth, and progressively releases him to his own relationships of intimacy. Such intimacy is as rewarding to parents as it is to children, for it allows parents to share in the rich inner world of the children who by their very existence give parents the gift of immortality. Such sharing can help to reopen parents to their own inner worlds, past and present, thereby deepening marital intimacy.

Intimacy between parents and children is psychologically different from that between husband and wife. The latter is a peer relationship based on mutual dependence and mutual need-satisfaction. The full intimacy of the marriage relationship is one which grows deeper and richer as the years go by. It is a relationship possible only between equals. Parent-child intimacy, on the other hand, is based on the initial physical and emotional dependence of the child. The parents' need is satisfied by the child's response to their giving. Parent-child intimacy gradually diminishes as the child develops his own autonomy over the years. Parents can enjoy and treasure many moments of personal intimacy with their children, but they cannot count on the increasingly intimate relationship which they expect from each other. Parent-child intimacy prepares the child for future relationships with peers. Husband-wife intimacy strengthens their own ongoing relationship.


The foundation of parent-child intimacy is laid even before the birth of the baby in the relationship of the parents. A husband and wife who have a mutually satisfying and growing relationship are more able to make the baby a part of their relationship in- stead of a divisive factor, than are couples who are distant or severely conflicted. Usually it is true, as well, that the more the husband is able to participate in the pregnancy and in the child-birth itself, the stronger will be his sense of mutuality with his wife in their new creation.

Never before have you had fully a chance to co-create a new world with another person -- or to bring forth children who will take their place in the long, long pilgrimage of man down this earth valley.(3)

It is important to the coming father-child relationship for him to be able to take as much part in this co-creation as is possible. Many doctors and hospitals now allow and even encourage prospective fathers to be present during labor and delivery. If such an experience climaxes nine months of mutual awareness and involvement in the prenatal development of the baby, the husband is already included in the intimacy so often assumed to be only the mother's privilege and prerogative. Once the baby is born and laid in his mother's arms (ideally in a rooming-in hospital where the father can also participate), the development of what Erik Erikson calls basic trust(4) already is in progress. The ways in which the baby is held and fed, bathed and dressed, convey the feelings in the family about his presence. Does the father also bathe and hold and feed him, so that he feels the strong, rough hands as well as the smooth, soft ones? What is the response to his crying, to his grasping for breast or bottle, to the mess in his diapers, to his first smile?

Thus the child's active grasping for mutuality will not do, if the reaching out is not met by a parallel enjoyment in the mother at being clung to; if the result is not a process of mutual interaction.(5)

All of this is not to say that the baby must experience only joy and peace. He is part of a real world, of its pain and anger as well as of its satisfactions. Plenty of that pain comes from his own body. If he gets, most of the time, loving response to his needs, he can take also the impatience at his dependence that comes when the mother is tired, the angry words between his parents when their own needs are not being met, the conflict that is inevitable in any family.

It is at this early time in the beginning of parent-child intimacy that the first danger may become apparent. Even in the strongest marriage relationships, the strength of the mother-baby bond is sometimes felt as a threat by the father. In severely conflicted marriages, this is often the point at which the destruction of the husband-wife intimacy begins and the unhealthy intimacy of the mother and child begins. The wife may begin to use the baby for the satisfaction of emotional needs which the marriage is not providing. The husband's jealousy may drive him further away. Even in healthy marriages, there is always some of this threat. It helps to be aware of it, so that the advent of children will contribute more to the uniting of parents than to the dividing of them. "No matter how going a concern a marriage may be, the advent of children causes severe strain between parents. Newborn babies cannot be taken in their stride."(6)

Awareness of the problem is often all that is needed to cope with it. Certainly, for the father to participate as much as possible in the care of the baby, and the parents' constant affirmation of each other as parents and as husband and wife are important. The father who will gaze with pride and joy and a sense of involvement, as well as with a twinge of jealousy, upon his wife as she nurses their child can feel the child as a bond which connects them. Some of the suggestions in Chapter 6 encouraging the new parents to make special efforts to be alone together regularly are important. For subsequent babies, as well as for the first, all that we have been saying here holds true.

Parent-child intimacy begins then, with the parents' response to the baby's almost complete dependence. Feelings are more important than techniques at this stage (or at any other). The baby whose needs are met most of the time, whose body is handled most of the time with tenderness and pleasure, who has frequent experiences of closeness and warmth from both parents, will respond to them in ways that satisfy their needs as successful, life-giving parents. On the other hand, parents who because of their own unmet needs can respond only with impatience to their child's crying and with disgust to the requirements of his body, will be unable to encourage the sense of basic trust so necessary if the growing child is to relate warmly to his parents or to anyone else. In the early weeks and months of the child's life, parent-child intimacy means for the child the satisfaction of his needs for comfort, warmth, closeness, and peace. For the parent it means the joy of having met these needs and the warm response of a baby who is for the most part content. But even in the midst of this warm closeness, the ebb and flow of intimacy which are part of any relationship prevail. Even for a baby, life is hard and needs cannot always be met, no matter how perceptive the parents. Thus even as life begins, the seeds of autonomy are sown. Growth is struggle.

The intimate closeness of mother and child, however healthy, cannot continue. The necessity for weaning becomes a fact of life for the baby. As he grows older he must grow more distant from the mother. He cannot always have the breast or bottle, or the arms of his mother and father. Before long the word "no" enters his life. He learns that the world has limits and that he is a person separate from his parents and sometimes in conflict with them. Presently even the products of his body are no longer his. He must accept toilet-training in one form or another as one of his first concessions to the expectations of society and the family. All of these confrontations with the reality of life mean that the small child is increasingly required to give up the complete dependence which he enjoyed in babyhood and to begin to establish himself as a responsible human being. Thus the quality of parent-child intimacy is also required to change. With the making of demands and the setting of limits, the parents become different kinds of need-satisfiers. If the basic trust is strong in the child, and if the parents are secure in their own relationship and not too threatened by the child's budding autonomy which at times makes him resist the demands of the parents, a new dimension of parent-child intimacy can develop.

In the learning to walk and talk, to use the bathroom and to accept limits, parent-child intimacy revolves around the setting of these limits and the acceptance of feelings about them. Can the parents say "No" when the child runs into the street, and prevent him from doing it, while at the same time accepting his feeling of anger and frustration at being thus limited. Can they prevent his impulse to drop a wooden block on his new baby brother's head, while at the same time letting him know that his feeling of jealousy and rage is not bad in itself and that he is not a bad person for having it? Can they encourage him to use the potty to defecate without punishing him for his failures or making him feel that his body and its products are bad?

In short, parent-child intimacy at the toddler and young-child stage is closely related to the child's growing autonomy and sense of himself as a separate person. It is a difficult period, for the child's love-hate ambivalence is very strong. He both fears and wants to grow up. He both needs his parents desperately, and needs desperately to establish himself as an important person in his own right. His parents must allow him the distance he needs to become himself, with a growing sense that he is worthwhile and has some control over his own destiny. At the same time they need to derive satisfaction from being with him in feeling, and taking pride in his achievements. Continued unequivocal love within the necessary setting of limits is important.

Parents who are too threatened by their child's angry, "I hate you!" when he is frustrated are unable to accept his feeling. Usually such parents have not been able to admit to or accept strong negative feelings in themselves, and thus project onto the child their own feelings of badness.

The child may then accept his parents' label, "I'm bad" and either withhold his deepest feelings in the future, or lash out more violently at his surroundings, thus becoming a "behavior problem." Either way, parent-child intimacy is blocked. The mother and father who are open to and accepting of their own negative feelings are far more able to tolerate their child when behavior is difficult and angry feelings run high. The child's emotional demands at this stage are excessive. "For this reason, parents need a strong love for each other if the trinity of father-mother-child, is to grow on a positive emotional basis."(7)

An intimate marital relationship which rejoices in the wide range of human feeling, which includes anger in its definition of love, can include the child in the "freedom to feel."

Four-year-old Billy was brought to a child guidance clinic at the suggestion of his nursery school teacher. She felt that he was angry most of the time, for he lashed out physically at the other children and regularly destroyed the toys and equipment of the school. His parents described him as unmanageable at home, always trying to hurt his little sister, smashing his toys and refusing to obey.

During many weeks of play therapy sessions Billy seemed chiefly to want to play in the water. He floated the boats and then sank them. He caused tidal waves which washed the cars and trucks into the water and drowned the people. He threw the cowboys and Indians into the water and drowned them. All the while he talked quietly to himself about what he was doing, but loud enough so that the therapist could hear him. The therapist consistently repeated back to him what he said he was doing, with acceptance but no approval or disapproval in her voice.

One day Billy said to her, "I wonder why I come here. Maybe it's because I'm unhappy." With a quizzical look at the therapist he picked up the baby doll which he had never before touched, put it in the water and held it under for a long, silent moment. Then with an audible sigh of relief he took the doll out, dried it off, and dressed it. He never played with the water again, nor with the doll. In subsequent sessions he played in a variety of ways and with a good deal of relaxed spontaneity. Meantime his behavior at home and at school had modified. His parents had been getting help, too, and were more aware of their own feelings and of Billy's. They had begun to accept his anger at the little sister verbally, while at the same time letting him know he couldn't hurt her. They had got him a pounding bench and encouraged him to use it when he was angry.

It seemed as though Billy had at last been able to express the feelings he had stored up from the time of his sister's birth. His parents previously had not allowed him to express any negative feelings about her. When he and they could feel and accept the ambivalence that characterizes all close relationships, Billy was gradually able to channel his anger more appropriately. This experience was the beginning of both parent-child and marital intimacy for Billy and his family.

During the period from about three to six years, children normally establish an especially warm, close relationship with the parent of the other sex. Through this bond, a child is awakened to the basic goodness of male-female relationships. This closeness is one of the crucial roots of all future intimacy across sex lines. It is one foundation stone for adult heterosexual relationships.

For the growth of the preschooler to be complete, the child needs a loving, caring relationship with his same-sexed parent, too. Normally, the child feels jealousy toward this parent; he also needs to have feelings of love and acceptance from the parent. These feelings give balance to his attachment to the parent of the other sex, and help him move beyond this attachment in the next period of his growth. It is particularly important that the husband-wife rapport be steady and strong during the child's preschool development. This often is difficult because the husband is preoccupied with getting established in his work. If this is the case, his daughter will have difficulty finding the warm closeness she needs with him. When a strong father-daughter bond is established, the wife may be threatened because of her unmet hungers in the marriage. Where marital intimacy is robust, on the other hand, the balance of good relationships with both parents during these years in a child's life will usually be present automatically.

If, during the toddler and young-child stage, parents are sensitive and accepting enough to help the child to understand how he feels, and to put their understanding into words and actions, they and the child are well prepared for the next stage of parent-child intimacy. When the child goes to school he is taking another big step along his road to autonomy and identity. In the physical sense, he needs his parents less and less. But he is still very much dependent on them for emotional support in coping with the many new involvements which he experiences outside the home. Now that he is more able to put his feelings into words, is he free, from his parents' point of view, to share with them the hurts and joys and frustrations which he is bound to experience in the outside world? Correcting behavior without condemning feeling, listening to and accepting fears and worries without taking charge in an overprotective way, allowing free rein to the developing need for freedom while at the same time holding fast to the limits appropriate to his age -- these are the continuing bases of parent-child intimacy. As in earlier years, acceptance and reflection of feeling, so that the child feels that there is no feeling he cannot express, however bad, however frightening, is the essence of intimacy. When children are free to share their fear and rage with their parents, they are eager to share their joys and loves.

The early school years are foundational for a child's growth in the ability to relate trustfully with his own sex. A strong identification with his same-sexed parent is normal and necessary. Through a close relationship with his dad (or a father substitute), a boy learns to belong to the male world -- to think, feel, and act like a male in his culture. He moves from this to close relations with boys his own age. A parallel process occurs in the normal growth of a girl.

During the years of childhood with its increasing autonomy, the closeness-distance cycle between parents and children is in constant motion. There are times when the child seems free and happy and little in need of mothering and fathering. If his parents can accept his freedom without being

threatened by not being needed, the child will return for the sustenance he needs when things go wrong and he needs temporarily to regress. Letting the child set the pace of intimacy -- being there when they are needed and not pushing when they are not needed -- this is the parents' job. Parents need each other in a steadier relationship of intimacy and a sharing which allows them together to move with the ebb and flow of their children's closeness and distance. The changing needs of the child require ever new and different patterns of response and need-satisfaction from the parents.

As adolescence approaches, the child is more and more finding his intimate satisfactions away from his parents. In pre-adolescence and early adolescence the intimate relationships are with persons of the same sex. As adolescence advances, the transfer is made to persons of the other sex as the inner preparation for a life of intimacy with a marriage partner continues. Parent-child intimacy during adolescence often seems to parents to be a one-way street. The adolescent is intimate when he wants something and far away emotionally at all other times! But this is only a part of the story. The adolescent still needs from his parents the same feeling of affirmation that he has always needed, but in different ways. At this stage as in the previous one, the parent who is open and ready when the young person needs him is often able to share in his almost-adult children's struggle for identity. This can be among the most rewarding experiences of parenthood. Like the moments of intimacy at other times in the child's life, the rare moments of sharing with adolescent children can also help the parent to reopen and relive some of his own youth by sharing in his children's growth.

Here are the words of Jeeney Ray,(8) a spastic girl who is an orphan and who has had few experiences of intimacy in her life time. Then along comes an adult who cares:

I study him well and receive the kindred of one to another. . . . I reach as far into his eyes as I can to understand the fullness of what he says and the way he looks me over; puzzled back in thinking is how he is, and grinning and frowning, then going way down to pierce darkness. . . . It is when thinking is coming from the other person into yourself and touching the same thinking as the other person; it is quiet then, and words come from their hiding hearts.

Such moments of parent-child intimacy in adolescence are rare, but they are possible. It is also true that the withdrawal of the child during adolescence can provide the parents with new opportunities for self-understanding and for renewal of the intimacy between them. Karen's parents had been in a therapy group of couples who were also parents of disturbed adolescents. The experience had opened for them a whole new world of understanding between themselves and within the family. Here are the words which Karen's mother wrote at one point in their struggle:

Our daughter the Rebel --

is the nicest thing that's happened to us --

She has made us see her for the first time

She has made us feel her feelings and

understand her troubled

feelings and ours.

She has made us aware, aware of so many

new feelings and sights

Our daughter the Rebel, so sensitive but so

full of courage has filled our hearts with a new love.

We thank God for our honest daughter, the Rebel.

After an adolescent has successfully separated himself from his parents and found both his own identity and a place for himself in intimate relationships with young-adult peers, he may be able to establish a new kind of mature closeness with his parents. This adult-to-adult intimacy is possible only if the parents can let go of their need to treat their offspring as a dependent child. The intimacy between adult child and parents, when it develops, can have a special quality of closeness not present in other adult relationships.


There are several kinds of parent-child relationships which are often mistaken for parent-child intimacy. Parent-child intimacy does not include making the child a substitute spouse. For this reason a reasonably need-satisfying marital (or other adult-to- adult) relationship is a prerequisite for healthy parent-child intimacy. The mother who is having all her emotional needs met through her relationships with her children is unable to grant them the autonomy they need in order to grow up. Her own need to be needed causes her to be overprotective and forces the children to become too dependent on her. This is not intimacy; it is smothering. The children are never free to grow up and establish peer relationships of intimacy on their own. The importance of cultivating a good marital relationship, utilizing professional help if necessary, cannot be overemphasized. In one study(9) of disturbed children, it was discovered that when parents became more invested in each other than either was in the child, the child improved regardless of what either parent did. When either parent became more emotionally invested in the child than in the marital partner, the child immediately regressed. Nothing is more devastating to a child than to find that he can come between his parents. When a parent is too dependent on the child for his own need-satisfaction, the child is heavily burdened and unable to separate from the parent. Parents must lean on each other, not on their children.

Parent-child intimacy also is not a matter of the parents living out their unfulfilled lives through their children. The father who, upon the birth of his first son, buys a room full of balls and bats and weights and punching bags had better examine his own sense of identity. The mother who pushes her daughter into early dating and an extensive social life may need to do the same. Otto Pollak says that throughout the child-rearing stage of marriage, spouses should each protect the children from the other spouse's unfinished identity.(10) For all of us as parents the temptation is to put our unfinished identity on our children. Such relating is not intimacy because it is stifling, not growth-stimulating. It burdens the child with responsibility for his parents' fulfillment as well as his own. Parents can help each other with unfinished identity. But children cannot be expected to do the same for their parents. Sometimes the simple awareness that such a tendency exists is enough to keep parents alert to the dangers.

"How can a child be himself and at the same time be what his parents want him to be? For the parents, how can they have a child whom they love while helping him to be an individual different from them?" Psychiatrist Frederick Allen's questions are crucial ones for families. Again, a large part of the answer lies in the strength of the marital relationship which makes the child's self-fulfillment in his own unique way the fulfillment of the parents' needs too.

Parent-child intimacy is not meant to be "sacrifice." Some mothers, especially, pride themselves on the feeling that they will give up anything for the sake of their children. A certain amount of self-sacrifice is a requisite to any relationship of mutuality. But sacrifice is not sound if it means neglect of the satisfactions of adult needs. The wife who cannot ever go out with her husband because she cannot leave her children is hurting them as well as the marriage relationship. The children will be required to pay for their mother's sacrifice with guilt and success. Similarly, the father who spends all his time working sacrificially so that his children will have things better than he did as a boy is sacrificing for them from his point of view. But he is also sacrificing both the parent-child and the marital relationship. What a father gives of himself to his children is more important than what he provides for them financially. (Adequate economic support is a form of self-giving, of course.)

Another misinterpretation of parent-child intimacy is that such intimacy is a relationship of equality. Some parents mistake peership for intimacy. At any stage of the child's growth, from babyhood to adulthood, the generation gap is a necessary and vital phenomenon. Children and adolescents need parents to be parents. They need the freedom to express negative feelings from time to time and to rebel occasionally, but they need the parents to be in charge in the long run. Thomas J. Cottle has remarked:

When a small child orders his parent out of his bedroom he necessarily fears the enormity of the act. In a tearful rage, he can only pray that the parent will go no farther than the living room. There is, then, a primitive core, developing first in interactions with parents, that pleads for the overthrow of authority, yet simultaneously for the inability to do it by nature of the superordinate's strength in resisting. Parents simply cannot break down or retreat. They must prevail, and no one wants this more than the child. . . . Relationships with them preclude both equality and peership.(12)

Parents are often most strongly tempted to close the generation gap when their children are in adolescence. This is particularly true when the parents themselves feel their own adolescence un- finished, as all of us do to some degree. But again, parent-child intimacy in adolescence is dependent on the separation of the generations. "For some young people, a quiet inner strength vanishes when their parents trespass on the property of time and destroy the very same asymmetry that they themselves once wished to destroy."(13) The opposite of a peer relationship between parents and children is the authoritarian relationship which demands that the children become not only unquestioningly obedient, but that they never express any negative feelings toward or about their parents. Such a relationship makes parent-child intimacy impossible. It precludes the

gradual development of autonomy which is basic to relationships of intimacy at any level. Intimacy is a two-way street. Authoritarianism is a one-way street.


As with marital intimacy, the development of parent-child intimacy can be cultivated at any stage of family life, if there is a reasonably good family identity. Within certain basic limits, parents can make many mistakes without damaging their children or stunting the capacity for intimacy. Erik Erikson writes:

Now, while it is quite clear what must happen to keep a baby alive (the minimum supply necessary) and what must not happen, lest he be physically damaged or chronically upset (the maximum early frustration tolerable), there is a certain leeway in regard to what may happen; and different cultures make extensive use of their prerogatives to decide what they consider workable and insist upon calling necessary.(14)

The basic requirements of food and shelter and clothing are among the musts. Emotional satisfactions are also among the musts. The studies reported in Infants in Institutions' make it clear that simply providing good physical care without opportunities for strong emotional attachments to meaningful adults permanently cripples the child in his ability to establish relationships of intimacy and trust. Physical and emotional abuse and brutality are among the must nots. Some of these have been described in the foregoing section. But it is comforting to realize that the techniques of child-raising once thought to be crucial -- breast or bottle feeding, time of weaning or toilet training, spanking or not spanking -- are insufficient criteria for explaining behavioral and emotional reactions of children. Someone has said that it is not so much how you raise your children as how you feel about them. Ben is a child of the London blitz in a novel called London Pride. His mother "was often irritable and sometimes violent, but it didn't mean anything to Ben because of her more constant kindness. In a tough and dangerous world, his mother's kindness was the one thing Ben had learned to believe in."(16) For most of us it is not so much that we have failed in our parent-child relationships, as that we have not developed them to the limits of their potentialities. Just as it is possible, given a certain basic strength in a marriage to deepen and broaden its intimacy, so in the parent-child relationship the potential is always present.

We have been saying that parent-child intimacy develops in the process of teaching the child to prize his own body and bodily experiences, his own senses and sensations, his own feelings, both good and bad. We have mentioned some of the misuses of the parent-child relationship which can cause the child to fear closeness because of the painful experiences which made closeness too threatening. Helping the child to discover his capacity for intimacy, for closeness with autonomy has been the focus of this chapter.

As a husband and wife in their own struggle for intimacy become open to their own feelings, and their relationship deepens, the children will automatically be affected by it. A good relation- ship in marriage automatically produces good relationships beyond itself.(17) But there are some conscious steps that parents can take to stimulate the development of intimacy with children.

A first step would be to become consciously aware of the ways in which their children express their feelings, and to let them know verbally that these feelings are accepted. When a nine-year- old boy comes storming in from school, throws his things around in defiance of all the rules of the household and makes a defiant remark to his mother besides, she can say, "Jerry, I see that you're angry and unhappy. Do you want to tell me about it?" Maybe he does and maybe he doesn't, but at least he knows that she under- stands and accepts his feeling. Maybe when he is ready he can talk about it. The important part is that somebody understands. This does not suggest that parents accept any action the child chooses for expression of his feelings. Jerry's mother may need to require him to pick up his things. Destructive and hurting behavior has always to be prevented or stopped. But usually it stops of its own accord when feelings are honestly accepted. The learning-to-listen discussed in Chapter 5 becomes important in parent- child intimacy. Ben's mother, when he needed her, ". . . emptied [her] mind to listen so that whatever you said had room to be at home in it."(18)

A second step that parents can take is to let their children in on their own feelings, both positive and negative. Some parents protect their children from parental emotions in the belief that these will somehow be damaging to the child. Feelings imagined can be much more damaging than those freely expressed. The child who sees his father pat his mother on the "fanny" as he goes by her standing at the kitchen sink is picking up some good feelings about sexual intimacy. Children who see a certain amount of honest argument between their parents, followed by friendly relations within a short time, are learning that anger is not necessarily destructive to a relationship but can be a positive force. Tears of pain and joy openly and unashamedly accepted from time to time, in parents as well as in children, teach a child the value of deep feeling in experiencing life to its fullest. All this does not say that the display of feelings by parents cannot be overdone. Certainly, destructive anger between parents will hurt the children. The parent who makes a confidant of the child because there is not a good spouse relationship in which feelings can be expressed is hurting the child. Excessive and chronic display of grief and sadness by the parent can be damaging to children as well. But a freedom and openness about the existence of feelings in parents helps children to be able to own their own feelings and increases parent-child intimacy.

Dorothy Walter Baruch writing about One Little Boy, says:

I wondered when we would know better how to help children more widely in schools and homes to understand their feelings, and when we would be able to help parents understand theirs, so that the boys and girls now growing up might know not only about tanks and bullets but about the most powerful of all weapons for both good and evil -- the human feelings that propel us, if we do not understand them, into hating in place of loving, into killing instead of creation.(19)

If parents treat their children in such a way that a conflict develops between the wish to be loved and cared for, and the wish to assert themselves, they will carry the conflict into their own marriages. The capacity for intimacy grows in a child as he experiences a sense of being wanted and approved, of belonging, of emotional warmth, of acceptance, of nearness and relatedness to security- giving adults, without feeling deprived of his need for autonomy, self-direction and self-fulfillment. Healthy parent-child intimacy at any stage of the family cycle frees the child for autonomy even as it pulls the parents closer together. When this happens the child learns that although things outside ourselves change, "if we learn to utilize our inner resources, we carry our security around with us."(20) Parents and children together can develop the quality of intimacy required for such a covenant.


1. Read Chapter 15 in New Ways of Discipline by Baruch (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1949). Practice listening to your children and encouraging them to pour Developing Parent-Child Intimacy ( 177 out their feelings. Your way of handling this will depend on their ages.

2. Practice repeating back to your children what you think their feelings are in a given situation. Ask them to correct you if you misinterpret them. Again, their ages will determine to what extent they can respond to this sort of game.

3. Look over the suggestions in Chapter 6 which fit the ages of your children and continue to cultivate the intimacy developing between you and your spouse.

4. Talk over with your spouse the ways you feel about each of your children and the ways you think they feel about you. Help each other to see how you are using your children to meet your own unmet needs.

5. Read Between Parent and Child or Between Parent and Teenager by Haim Ginot (New York: The Macmillan Co., 1965 and 1969) for concrete help in learning how to relate intimately with your children. Read some of the books cited in notes 2, 4, 7, 8, 16, 19, and 20, below.



1. Clifford Kirkpatrick, The Family (New York: Ronald Press Co., 1963), p. 4.

2. Levy and Monroe, The Happy Family (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1938), p. 123.

3. Ross Snyder, Inscape (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1968), p. 20.

4. Erik Erikson, Childhood and Society (New York: W. W. Norton, 1963).

5. Bruno Bettelheim, The Empty Fortress (New York: Free Press, 1967), p. 32.

6. Levy and Monroe, op. cit., p. 243.

7. Margaret Ribble, The Personality of the Young Child (New York: Columbia University Press, 1955).

8. Iris Domfield, Jeeney Ray (New York: The Viking Press, 1962), pp. 44, 50.

9. Virginia Satir, Conjoint Family Therapy (Palo Alto, Calif.: Science & Behavior Books, 1964), p. 4.

10. Otto Pollak, lecture. University of Pennsylvania, January 18, 1967. 178 ) The Intimate Marriage

11. Frederick H. Alien, Positive Aspects of Child Psychiatry (New York: W. W. Norton, 1963).

12. Thomas J. Cottle, "Parent and Child -- The Hazards of Equality," Saturday Review, February 1, 1969, p. 17.

13. Ibid., p. 16.

14. Enk Erikson, Identity and the Life Cycle (New York: International Universities Press, Inc., 1959), p. 57.

15. See Provence and Lipton, Infants in Institutions (New York: Inter- national Universities Press,


16. Phyllis Bottome, London Pride (Boston: Little Brown and Co., 1941), p. 8.

17. This point is basic to the upreach and outreach of marriages (see chapters 9 and 10).

18. Phyllis Bottome, op. cit., p. 225.

19. Dorothy Walter Baruch, One Little Boy (New York: Julian Press, 1952), p. 236.

20. Virginia Axline, Dibs, In Search of Self (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1965), p. 51.