Monday, February 22, 2016

Cultural Pathology in India-6-CHILDREN'S DEPENDENCE AND DEMANDS ON PARENTS


CULTURAL PATHOLOGY SIX:
Children’s expectations from their parents: One slightly bizarre behaviour I saw in a few cases was the demands made by children on their parents in some upper and middle-class families.
Two were women :one in her late 30s and one in her late 40s ; both were furious with their fathers for not getting them married. As you know it is mostly arranged marriages in India and Indian girls expect their parents to find suitable grooms for them. These 2 women during their 20s had rejected many ‘suitable’ proposals when their dad brought them giving various reasons such as he is not good looking, he is not in a good job, he is not earning enough, I don’t like his house, etc. Now in their 30s and 40s, they are accusing their aged parents, of ruining their lives. Both women are unemployed, have gradually withdrawn and refuse to visit other families and friends, do not participate in house work and are looked after by their aging parents. It is difficult to make any diagnosis as they do not fulfil any criteria except maybe psychosis nos or depression nos. At the beginning i.e. when this behaviour starts, they do not fit any diagnostic criteria but after several years of the same behaviour and increase in withdrawal, they seem to fit criteria for a illness at some point in time. The lapse into illness is 'seamless' and slow.

Unfortunately I have seen many similar cases amongst relatives, friends and neighbours. I really blame the Indian culture for these expectations  children have of their parents.
It is a combination of reasons such as
(a) the youth not allowed to find their own spouses i.e. lack of autonomy over one's life and parental interference,
(b) the youth not allowed to mix freely with the opposite sex(this has changed now, at least in the cities, thank God),
(c) lack of economic independence (mostly in women than men)when one does not work.
 I have also seen cases of severe marital conflict and where the married person continues to blame the parents (for  several decades after marriage),  for not finding a suitable partner. The parents bear it silently with a sense of guilt. This would not happen if one could have autonomy over selection of one's partner. Many of the people continue to be married to the person who was 'selected by parents' and neither divorce or try to get along or seek counselling. They spend lives in bitterness.
One major reason for this seems to be that many Indians do not take responsibility but blame others or external forces for their miseries. To this day, a common tale of woe you hear in many Indian households is of a father or mother telling the kids   " I did not want to marry your father/mother. I was forced to by your grandfather and now my life is ruined". These accusations continue to be thrown for ages and never seem to stop!

Another type of unrealistic expectations I witnessed was kids demanding their parents to shell out huge sums of money (“take a loan if you do not have the money; Get me the money somehow”!) for their education. One case I quote here was a girl of 18 who got average marks (and hence the marks are not good enough to enter medical college easily) and got into a medical college after her parents took a huge loan(fees/donation are high if your marks are poor). She then refused to go to the college as ‘she did not like it’ and demanded her parents take another loan and put her in another medical college! It was then her parents brought her in for counseling. This girl was simply unable to see reason and refused to budge saying that her parents have to take a loan and get her into another college and that she will clear their loan at a later date. She dropped out after coming reluctantly just once and I am not sure what happened to her. This is another case which looks so delusional and yet her bizarre behaviour is partly the result of her parents being indulgent for a long period of time....and being unable to put their foot down when she made these ludicrous demands.
 I have seen many adults make similar unrealistic demands on  their hapless parents and throw tantrums (these are adults in their 30s and 40s…not little children). I have seen some guys asking their parent to get them a beautiful bride and their parents move heaven and earth, trying to find someone not only beautiful but also willing to marry their son! What puzzles me is the utter coolness with which these demands are made, the inability to see how wrong their demands are, and the parents inability to draw the line.

All these behaviours do not add up to a personality disorder in most cases. They definitley do not add up to be schizophrenia, depression, mania or any type of psychosis. These are behaviours which have reached this point due to a variety of cultural factors such as over-indulgence by parents , partiality to male children, parents jumping through hoops for thier kids instead of setting limits...believing that if they give everything to thier kids, they will make thier kids happy and successful or that their kids will love them or look after them in their old age.

The shocking anti-social  behaviours displayed by the sons of the very rich in India such as sons of politicians is another example of cultural pathology. These boys get away with murder!...Yes. They can literally kill one or more human beings and get away with it. Reading the Indian newspapers will give you many examples. These kids do not display such  pathological behaviour because of  mental illnesses ...they become like that due to cultural factors such as over-indulgent parents and sycophants surrounding their families; deviant parent role models, not being punished when they do wrong as children, etc. The fact that their parents use their power to twist the law to get their kids out of trouble only encourages them more.

There is also the unnatural expectations parents have from their adult children (such as complete obedience without exercising personal choice or independent thinking) but I am not going to dwell on it much. You would have seen it in the million Hindi movies released every year.

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