Case # 3
In the third case, Janet was the only child from her parents' marriage, which ended
abruptly with her father's death when she was 11 years old. Life was difficult for
her and her mother afterward, as there was no insurance on the father and the mother was
forced to go to work in non-skilled employment, keeping her away from home long hours.
The loss was especially hard for Janet, who had been a "daddy's girl."
Janet became a latch-key kid who made up the deprivation she was experiencing at
times through minor juvenile delinquent activities, such as stealing make-up from the
local drug store. As an adolescent, she became somewhat promiscuous in her search
for someone whom she felt would meet her needs. There was a teenage pregnancy in
which the child, a boy, was given up for adoption.
Her first marriage with Steve seemed good for a few years, but in actuality, both of
them had developed episodic alcohol abuse problems. They made friends with another
couple, Mary and Ralph, with whom they frequently partied. Steve's work resulted in
some travel, and at such times Janet continued to spend time with her good friends.
In time, however, Janet began to turn to Ralph and to have an affair with him, and,
unknown to her at the time, Mary and Steve were also having an affair with each other.
The two couples divorced their original spouses and married each other. This
resulted in tremendous turmoil for the children in these families even though they had
become good friends prior to the remarriages. Sharing parents was not what the
youngsters had in mind, and the attention of the adults was, in actuality, shifted away
from the children since the adults were immersed in their own conflicts.
Ralph had an opportunity to move to another state continuing with his job, and felt
that perhaps this would give him and Janet a fresh start. A custody battle then
ensued, and Steve and Mary ended up with custody of all the children except for Ted, who
was Ralph's and Mary's 16-year-old son. Janet had two sons, ages 17 and 12 at the
time. The 17 year old, Tony, was so upset over his mother's remarriage that he
refused to have any contact with her, and he quit school and went out on his own.
The 12 year old, Jim, was to spend the summers with his mom.
The move with Ralph and Ted to another state required much adjustment for Janet, who
had been used to semirural living and who now found herself in a congested metropolitan
area where there were no neighbors or friends, just a more anonymous and impersonal
environment. Ralph frequently traveled in conjunction with his job, leaving Janet
and Ted at home alone. The two had enormous conflicts at first. Then, during
their first summer in their new home, Jim came to visit his mom. The visit went
well, but after he left to go home, Janet found herself increasingly depressed.
Ted proved to be her best consolation, and in the process, their relationship began to
develop into a sexual one. Soon they were having intercourse on a regular basis
whenever Ralph was away. Ted eventually shared what was happening with a friend who
then told a teacher. The teacher made a report and Janet was arrested.
Janet's MMPI indicated some tendency to exaggerate her complaints but was probably
valid. The most prominent feature of the profile was a very elevated scale 4,
followed by elevations on scales 3 and 9. She appeared to be highly impulsive
individual with low frustration tolerance who tended to engage in denial or acting out as
primary mechanisms for dealing with conflict. She did not appear to be psychotic.
There was a mix of histrionic and borderline personality features.