“Ask Dr. Neuman”

Advice Column

My younger brother, age 42, has recently been aggressively demanding love

by | Oct 31, 2014 | Ask Dr Neuman

Q: My younger brother, age 42, has recently been aggressively demanding love and attention from various family members in the wake of a traumatic event (discovering that his 7 year old son and the boy’s half-brother had been sexually molested by a teenage boy last year while with their mother, the custodial parent). While this is clearly terrible, I am concerned about my brother’s mental health and ability to properly care for the child now that he has temporary emergency custody. He had a clearly hyper manic episode when he was around 18 years old, has a history of gambling, stealing, lying, and manipulation. He seems to be living in a fantasy world wherein all of his focus seems to be on teenage boy-type entertainment (movies, concerts, theme parks, social media, sporting events, and pornography). He has never been able to support himself and relies on our mother for financial support. At the time that his son revealed the abuse, my brother also made claims of sexual abuse at the hands of our stepfather, who did, in fact, sexually abuse me from age 4 – 9 and has been abusing and having sexually inappropriate relations our older sister from age 6 onward. Our sister was observed for 7 weeks at Meninger Clinic and later attended high school at Devereaux for 4 years. At no point did she reveal the abuse, according to my mother, which I find difficult to believe. My brother’s claims are difficult for me to believe, even though I know first-hand that our stepfather is a pedophile, and I feel awful about that. This issue is dividing the family, and I am concerned that not enough focus is being placed on my brother’s mental health and his ability to properly care for his son. Some family members have commented on the possibility that the boy has been coached, as my brother has a strong and extensively documented history of prompting the boy to say and do things on camera, to participate in the above entertainment (and clearly age-inappropriate) activities with him. The child has obviously been exposed to inappropriate sexual images and conversations, as evidenced by some of the comments his young cousins have made to me about my nephew’s behavior. I am worried and don’t know what I can do to help my brother and his son, and I doubt their stories. I know this is long and probably not enough information, but what should we do as a family to help my brother and his son? He has been seeing a guy who is a MSW and licensed counselor for years, but I feel it isn’t enough.
– Chris A.

A: There are limits to what you can do in this situation. Your are not the children’s parent or your brother’s guardian. Plainly, you resent the role your brother has played in your family and suspect that he is unreliable in terms of reporting what is going on with his children. If you can get your parents on your side, you can involve other authorities in determining what is best for the children (Child protective services.) You can call up his therapist directly. The therapist may not choose to talk to you, but he can listen without violating his patient’s rights. I know it must be frustrating trying to get your parents to see this situation the way you do, but once you have told them what you think, you cannot do anything more. Sibling often think parents have enabled a misbehaving sibling and infantilized him/her. It is difficult, however, for a parent to be strict with an  adult  son or daughter who seems not to have grown up. Your family situation is so complicated, it would be good, if possible, to arrange for some kind of family treatment.
– Dr. Neuman


I assume your brother would not be receptive to your expressing your concerns–any concerns–about him. Perhaps your mother would have more influence on him. I do not think he would respond to your concerns about his lying. It might be reasonable to suggest to him that seeing a psychiatrist along with his son might be helpful to the son to overcome whatever trauma he might have experienced. A child psychiatrist might be best able to handle such a complicated problem. If your brother relates to him, they might be able to move the focus on treatment to your brother’s condition. I am assuming you are correct about him; but you might not be. The whole family seems conflicted about sexual matters.
- Dr. Neuman