Letter: Miserable myth of happy families

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The Independent Online
Miserable myth of happy families

Sir: I was struck although not shocked by the photographs of a "family at war" (25 August). These photographs are simply a graphic representation of the emotional chaos which happens in many families.

Hostility, fear, dislike and manipulation - with occasional warmth - are what many people experience in the bosom of their families. Often, however, it is not expressed physically but rather through intense and unrelenting psychological pressure. Far less is it admitted. I, and several of my valued friends, have "outed" the terrible truth that we do not come from families whose members are supportive and happy.

It is arguable that the rhetoric of the supportive family unit has distorted the thinking behind many social programmes and a great deal of social research. It has also contributed in large part to the sense of isolation that those of us who are not part of a mutually supportive "blood-is-thicker- than-water" social group feel.

That is until you realise that many, many others are in the same position, and admitting it is a great relief. What warmth I feel towards Jessica Mitford: In response to Nancy Mitford's view that "Sisters stand between one and life's cruel circumstances", she responded that surely sisters were life's cruel circumstances.

Dr MARGARET MITCHELL

Department of Psychology

Glasgow Caledonian University

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