Enmeshment is a concept in psychology and psychotherapy introduced by Salvador Minuchin (1921–2017) to describe families where personal boundaries are diffused, sub-systems undifferentiated, and over-concern for others leads to a loss of autonomous development. Enmeshed in parental needs, trapped in a discrepant role function, a child may lose their capacity for self-direction; their own distinctiveness, under the weight of "psychic incest"; and, if family pressures increase, may end up becoming the identified patient or family scapegoat.
Enmeshment was also used by John Bradshaw to describe a state of cross-generational bonding within a family, whereby a child (normally of the opposite sex) becomes a surrogate spouse for their mother or father.
- H. & L. Goldberg, Family Therapy: An Overview (2008) pp. 244, 467.
- Virginia Satir, Peoplemaking (1983) p. 167
- R. C. Schwartz, Internal Family Systems Therapy (1997) p. 162
- Robert Bly, Iron John (1991) pp. 170, 185–7.
- Goldberg, p. 239
- John Bradshaw, Reclaiming Virtue (2009) p. 390
- Bradshaw, p. 272
- R. Abell, Own Your Own Life (1977) pp. 119–22
- Terence Real, I Don't Want to Talk About It (1997) pp. 206, 360.
- Robin Skynner, One Flesh, Separate Persons (London 1976)