Disciplining Children in Divorced Families: The Process of Change in Relational Family Therapy


  • Saša Poljak Lukek, Ph.D. Catholic Faculty of Theology, University of Ljubljana


divorce, parenting, interpersonal experience, intrapsychic experience, relational family therapy


Divorce is a long-term emotional process during which distress is often expressed within the parent-child relationship, where changes in emotional bonding with child, as well as parenting style take place. The Parent-child relationship depends on parent’s interpersonal and intrapsychic experiences. Marital tension is related to the inability to create emotional security in the parent-child relationship, whereas the intrapsychic feeling of vulnerability is related to the reduced ability of bonding with child. Reduced emotional security and disconnection in the parent-child relationship increase the probability of more authoritarian methods and non-involved style of parenting. Because of that, parenting can become an additional source of tension and distress. Relational family therapy with its combination of interventions on systemic, interpersonal and intrapsychic levels enables the addressing of repetitive emotional vulnerability and a new approach to affect regulation. This article presents task analysis method based on qualitative data. Results have shown that through addressing excessive affective responses in current relationships, the dissolution of defences, the awareness of repetition on systemic and interpersonal levels, and transition to intrapsychic experience, the client learns to distinguish between past relationships and present experience, and can therefore begin to change the implicit relational perception. The connection between client’s relationship with child and client’s interpersonal and intrapsychic experience provide the client with a new understanding of her actions, thus opening a possibility of different parenting. Finally, the limitations of the research are presented.






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