Sam and Mark Stewart had developed significant psychological problems with accompanying physical conditions. They lived in fear of displeasing their father who could be affable and fun to be with but, when displeased, would scream, curse, call them names, and hit them. Sam told me how awkward it was even to bring a friend into the house because his father would behave as though Sam’s friend was his. He said that he would ask his father for help with homework, but that sometimes turned into an hours-long ordeal lasting into the night with Mr. Stewart haranguing him as to how to do the work the “right way.”
Mark told me that sometimes when his father got mad, he and Sam would have to do chores all day rather than hang out with friends. He also said that his dad would be so furious, his face would turn red, and he would hit him. He and Sam were particularly distressed by how mean their father was to their mom.
Mark and Sam were independent enough to make their own assessment of the family situation. They showed no signs of having been coached. Moreover, after they had lived apart from their dad for several months, they were far less anxious, improved in their academic performance, and had developed fewer physical symptoms.