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Mothers Who Sleep With Their Sons

Question:

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p>A mother who sleeps with her 20 year old son, and her 10 year old son at night time. Every time the mother lays down, whether in bed or on the son, one of the two son’s always joins her. The mother comes home from work for an hour lunch, and immediately goes into her son’s bedroom and lays with him. The youngest son, sleeps always with her at night. I don’t think that anything sexual is happening, but I think that it is immoral. And also the destruction of understanding between mother and the male child.

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Answer:

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p>I’m not sure what your question is, but I agree with your basis premise that there is reason to be concerned here. There are many different values and moral systems out there today. Even taking these into account, there is still a broad taboo that speaks to keeping parental and child lives separated when it comes to intimate matters.

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p>At issue are the health of the psychological boundaries that define the family. Parents should have a boundary drawn around them that enables them to keep certain intimate matters private (e.g., their sexual lives, their emotional concerns and worries), and children should have a similar boundary that insulates them from parental concerns and worries and sexuality. These boundaries should be there to help insure everyone’s adjustment and psychological health. When violations of these boundaries occur (such as when parents incest their children, or share with them troubling news that should be for adults only, children can become damaged emotionally.

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p>The boundaries that are healthy today are not written in stone, I don’t think. They are a product of modern culture and shaped by modern ideas about how adults and children are different. I read somewhere that the ancient Celts (the pagan ancestors of today’s Irish people) didn’t think twice about the whole family sleeping together in a communal bed. I’m not sure if that is entirely true or not, but it illustrates that different cultures have different ideas about the nature of childhood and how it needs or doesn’t need to be protected.

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p>Most modern mental health professionals would argue that there is a science basis for treating children as distinct from adults and in need of special protections from the adult world. Even up to the teen years (till the early 20s), the brain is continuing to develop. Consequently, children are not able to regulate emotions as easily as are adults, and (at younger ages) are not capable of relating to the world in a fully abstract manner as are adults. Things that adults can manage to cope with can be devistating for children as a result.

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p>Getting back to the mother sleeping with her children, it is not a good idea, for these reasons, for this behavior to continue. It is good to know that there isn’t any sexual abuse occuring, probably, but even seemingly harmless things can have an impact on children. There is enough boundary bending going on in this situation, that even though the activity may in fact be harmless and even loving in a real sense, that it would be better for it to cease.

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p>You use the word “immoral” in your letter, and that concerns me, becuase there is real potential for you to make the situation worse than it is by shaming this mother and her children. I hope you won’t do that, becuase to the extent you do, I think you will be contributing to the abuse of this family, and your own behavior will be “immoral”. It’s okay to strongly suggest that the sleeping together stop for the boundary and biology reasons I’ve described above. To do that would be to suggest that there is a healthy standard that is being violated. It would be very uncool to suggest that there is something necessarily wrong with the mother or the children, however. I’m recommending that you “love the sinners, but hate the sin”, and try to keep the two separate. You don’t want to cause these people to feel badly about themselves as people; you simply want to educate that the behavior that is occuring is not healthy.

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