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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The psychodynamics and treatment of the male partner in marital conflict cases : an exploratory study based on Family Service Agency files, Vancouver, 1957 Morton, Betty Marie


This is an exploratory study of (a) material and (b) method, for analyzing the role of the male partner in marital conflict cases, and the casework implications of the involvement of the husband in the treatment process. For this purpose a small number of cases (15) from the files of the Family Service Agency of Greater Vancouver, were selected for intensive examination, and compared as three groups: (I) in which the casework treatment was focussed on the wife, (II) in which the casework treatment was focussed on the husband, and (III) in which casework was focussed equally on husband and wife. Methods of analysis and classification were worked out in the following areas; (1) the problems discussed by the marriage partners, (2) the performance of the husband in the masculine role, (3) the patterns of interrelationship between husband and wife, and (4) the casework treatability of each marriage partner. It was found, in all cases, that the male spouses were failing in the emotional areas of their roles, in their relationships with their wives and with their children. They were, generally, able to perform adequately as economic providers of the family, and to conform to social and cultural standards. All of the men disclosed a problem in handling their emotional dependency. Nearly three-quarters showed excessive dependence on their wives; the others were trying to handle their dependence in different, but still neurotic fashions. The background information about these men often indicated that their early relationships to their parents had been such as to prevent a healthy resolution of their oedipal feelings, resulting in weak masculine identification, or identification to a pathological pattern of masculine behaviour. In Groups I and II, where casework was focussed on one partner almost to the exclusion of the other, it was generally found that treatment had been focussed on the spouse who had applied first to the agency, and who had been interviewed by a caseworker of the same sex. The focus of treatment on one partner or the other was also clearly related to the relative willingness of the spouses to use casework service. In Group II in which the men were the focus of treatment, to the virtual exclusion of the wives, the men rated better in their performance in the masculine role than in Group I in which the reverse was the case. The treatment techniques used were found to be predominantly those of psychological support and clarification. Movement was measured by an adaptation of the Hunt-Kogan Movement Scale; and techniques described by Florence Hollis. In Groups I and II in which the focus was mainly on one partner, greater positive movement was achieved by this partner. In Group III, in which the treatment was focussed dually on husband and wife, the partners generally both achieved positive movement, to a similar degree. While some improvement in the marriage was seen to result from the positive movement achieved by one partner, generally, considerable improvement in the marriage seemed to result only when both partners achieved positive movement. No improvement occurred in one-fifth of the cases, there was some improvement in slightly less than half the cases, and considerable improvement in one-third of the cases. Some of the factors apparently influential in determining success or failure in these cases, are discussed.

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