Psychologists speculate future of unhappiness for Soon-Yi

August 21, 1992|By Stephanie Shapiro | Stephanie Shapiro,Staff Writer

Today, Woody Allen may think he has found love and happiness with Soon-Yi Farrow Previn, but tomorrow's forecast for the young woman looks like rain, say practicing psychologists watching Mr. Allen's untraditional family unravel into chaos.

"If you were going to predict the future, there is zero probability that she's going to live happily ever after," says Dr. James McGee, chief of psychology at the Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital.

Discussing the story in general terms, psychologists say that any relationship between a child and a parental figure that crosses the line into romance is bound to cause emotional damage to the child as well as to all concerned.

BTC As an adopted child and victim of marital instability, Ms. Previn's problems may have begun before her romantic alliance with the 56-year-old Mr. Allen, Dr. McGee suggests. "The entire scenario sounds like less than optimal family stability," he says.

Pointing to the family's unconventional structure, he says, "A series of poorly defined relationships will start you right off with problems as far as the children are concerned. It will be hard for kids to figure out who the players are.

"The kids raised in these kinds of systems frequently end up repeating the same patterns themselves," Dr. McGee says. "This would suggest it's not terribly likely that any of the children in this situation will end up having good, old-fashioned, conventional, monogamous, stable relationships. They don't have a clue as to what they are."

In this sense, Dr. McGee suggests Ms. Previn, thought to be 21, is possibly "repeating her mother's history." At 21, Ms. Farrow married Frank Sinatra when he was 50.

Although Mr. Allen has not violated the letter of the ancient taboo against incest, psychologists tend to agree he has at least violated its spirit. "People who are in parental roles are not supposed to develop love relationships with their children," says Dr. Ron Levant, a Brookline, Mass., psychologist who specializes in the psychology of men.

Woody Allen "seems to be in complete disregard of the implications of this," says Dr. Chris Courtois, director of the Center for Abuse Recovery and Empowerment at the Psychiatric Institute of Washington.

In all likelihood, "the family will never be the same again," she says. The reason for the incest taboo is "to prevent crossover relationships and that kind of damage."

"Clearly the daughter already had a problem in her relationship ,, with her mother," says Dr. Stuart Fischoff, a Los Angeles psychologist who treats patients in the entertainment industry. "There is absolutely no way she would have a sexual relationship with her surrogate stepfather without it."

Still, Dr. Fischoff adds, Ms. Previn's motives do not excuse Mr. Allen. "Simply looking at it from a straight mental health point of view, he shouldn't have done it. I don't care how attractive she was, or how needy he was. It was psychologically and morally wrong."

Because the changing nature and length of Mr. Allen's relationship with Ms. Previn is unclear, the degree of psychological fallout is open to conjecture, mental health professionals say.

"The amount of devastation, I think, varies directly with the intensity of the relationship," says Dr. Neil Bernstein, a Washington-based clinical psychologist specializing in families, adolescence and relationships. At worst, the affair could affect "her relationship to all men, it affects trust . . . ability to have intimate relationships, it affects her sexuality, it affects the capacity to parent," he says.

As a board member of the Forum for Psychoanalytic Study of Film, Washington clinical psychologist Dr. Anne Sinque has a strong professional and personal interest in Woody Allen's cinematic struggles to find happiness and meaning in life.

At several conventions and conferences, she has spoken about his portrayals of human relationships and the human dilemma. "Woody Allen all his life has yearned for those moments of deep, human connection that seem always illusive," Dr. Sinque says. "He must believe he's found it, or I don't think he would sacrifice. . . . What that man is sacrificing now, I think is incomprehensible to us."

But generally speaking, she says, "I do work with a good number of incest survivors, and I really have never seen a situation in which a family member abused [someone] in the helpless, powerless role of a child in which it came out to be anything other than destructive for the child," she says. "We don't even have to talk incest. Just that when a child in a family is in a pretty powerless situation, they're very vulnerable to the adult power in that setting. We can't overlook that."

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