Respect: Identification with Parents as Individuals

The youngest generation’s descriptions of their parents are more varied and differentiated, and in some way less emotional than those we heard from the previous generations—there are fewer conflicts and expressions of strong sentiments like admiration or anger. Asked if she admires her mother, Elsa’s daughter Eva, who is middle class, says: ‘admire and admire, I respect her. The parents emerge as fully fledged persons with good and bad sides, as fallible humans rather than idealised or rejected psychological objects in the narratives. Feelings of identification or disidentifi- cation with a parent are understood in terms of the parent’s personality rather than of his or her gender. Often the young women and men pick and choose different parts of parents and other figures they identify with when they describe their own personalities, without always being quite aware what comes from where. Still, the most marked change compared to the previous generation is that we see less emotional disidentification with the same-sex parent (see also Bengtsson 2001). There are some similarities in the positive way in which the youngest generation relate to their parents with the identification patterns of the eldest generation: not only in the positive attitude to the skill sets of their parents, especially the same-sex parent, but also in some of the men’s more muted images of and the women’s warmer relationships with the opposite-sex parent. However, less prominent mothers may now also be seen as strong figures and not as victims for whom their sons should feel sorry, and warm fathers are not always the main figure representing a bigger world to their daughters. In any case, both identifications and disidentifications with parents are now filtered through the basic idea of ‘being yourself’.

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