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Blum, H.P. (1996). Seduction Trauma: Representation, Deferred Action, And Pathogenic Development. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 44:1147-1164.

(1996). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 44:1147-1164

Seduction Trauma: Representation, Deferred Action, And Pathogenic Development

Harold P. Blum


Seduction trauma refers to a range of phenomena currently described under the rubric of child abuse. Freud elucidated the fantasy distortion and elaboration of traumatic experience and retained the importance of actual trauma. Psychic trauma is associated with the alteration of self and object representations and ensuing new identifications, e.g., with victim and aggressor. The “deferred action” of psychic trauma is an antiquated concept and psychic trauma has immediate effects as well as far reaching developmental consequences. Prior trauma predisposes to later traumatic vulnerability and to trauma linked to phase specific unconscious conflict. The pathogenesis of child sex abuse and the enactment of oedipal incest extends before and after the oedipal phase, is often associated with other forms of abuse, and has a history of pathogenic parent-child relationship.

This is the 100th anniversary of the publication of Studies on Hysteria(Breuer and Freud, 1893-1895) with its exploration of seduction trauma and treatment through abreaction or “catharsis.” The seduction theory proposed that the psychopathology of adults stems from repressed childhood sexual trauma. Childhood seduction trauma is now designated as the sexual abuse of children, a problem of enormous psychological and social importance.

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