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Bowlby, J. (2007). Forty-Four Juvenile Thieves: Their Characters and Home-Life (II). Att: New Dir. in Psychother. Relat. Psychoanal., 1(1):65-70.

(2007). Attachment: New Directions in Psychotherapy and Relational Psychoanalysis, 1(1):65-70

Forty-Four Juvenile Thieves: Their Characters and Home-Life (II)1 Related Papers

John Bowlby

(V) Notes on the Psychopathology of the Affectionless Character

The foregoing statistical analysis has demonstrated that a prolonged separation of a child from his mother (or mother-figure) in the early years commonly leads to his becoming a persistent thief and an Affectionless Character. An understanding of the detailed psychopathology must await the analysis of a few typical cases. Nevertheless an outline of the probable pathology may be sketched.2

First we may note the parts played by libidinal and aggressive impulses, both of which will inevitably have been excessively stimulated by the frustration of separation. By stealing the child hopes for libidinal satisfaction, though in reality it proves ineffective, because the symbol of love has been mistaken for the real thing. From earliest days libidinal satisfaction is associated with obtaining possession of things. In infancy it is milk, in later years toys and sweets; and even in adult life a drink, a box of chocolates, a cigarette or a good meal are the bearers of kindly feelings from one person to another. Food and other objects thus become symbols of affection. A child separated from his mother comes to crave both for her love and for its accompanying symbols and this craving, if unsatisfied, later presents itself as stealing. The fact that most of these children stole food or money to buy food and that these thefts were often from their mothers, was clearly no accident. The food they stole was no doubt felt to be the equivalent of love from the mother whom they had lost, though probably none was conscious of the fact.

The violence which these desires assume when untoward circumstances lead to their being thwarted is illustrated by several cases. Despite repeated and severe punishments these children persisted in pilfering from their mothers' bags and boxes. No. 30, Norman K., broke into his mother's money box, whilst No.

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