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Riggall, R.M. (1933). Childhood: Sybille Yates. 'Some Problems of Adolescence.' The Lancet, April 29th, 1933, p. 939.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 14:406-407.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Childhood: Sybille Yates. 'Some Problems of Adolescence.' The Lancet, April 29th, 1933, p. 939.

(1933). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 14:406-407

Childhood: Sybille Yates. 'Some Problems of Adolescence.' The Lancet, April 29th, 1933, p. 939.

Robert M. Riggall

This article is taken from a lecture given to the Medical Women's Federation. Dr. Yates starts by emphasizing the general nature of these problems apart from the mere existence of conscious difficulties. The core of the problem is that the adolescent is neither a child nor an adult, and lives in a little world of his own. He develops adult physical powers and has little sphere of adult action possessing adult obligations without privileges. Commenting on the rich nature of adolescent phantasy and dream life the author reviews the unreal nature of the world we ask our adolescents to live in. They are allowed so little contact with family labour or politics. They have all the qualities of omnipotence divorced from the thwarting facts of reality. Particularly difficult is the lot of the young person suddenly transferred by the gain of a scholarship from a working-class family to the University. The later reaction during a possible life of office drudgery may be severe. Some parents do not want their children to grow up and others

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who do, prevent their growth by demands of obedience and dependence. Society has no place for the adolescent. The lot of adolescents in primitive tribes is compared with a result rather to their advantage. Then follows a rapid and elementary review of development emphasizing the importance of infantile life, the latency period and puberty. The child compensates for his many frustrations and finds his excretory products possess a magical power with which he can fight the adult. Similar magical power ideas related to excretion are found in the beliefs of primitive people. At a later stage of development conflict occurs in relation to seminal emissions and menstruation, the early unconscious wishes being revived and these products again acting as magical weapons. It is pointed out that sexual enlightenment of children does more harm than good when it is done by halves and the important subject of pleasurable sensation is omitted. Emphasis is laid on the importance of guilt and fears in connection with masturbation. The accompanying phantasies of ambition, envy and power are gained at the expense of the parents because they appear to enjoy exclusive pleasures. Masturbatory guilt is often associated with growth changes in the sexual organs. During adolescence an exhibitionistic revival occurs and is associated with clothes, jewellery, make-up, etc The most intense unconscious fears are probably connected with the adult functioning of sexual intercourse associated with being hurt or hurting the sexual partner. A preconscious fear of marriage may often be based on parental marital unhappiness.

Although there is no satisfactory solution for the problem something can be done in a general way towards diminishing the importance of phantasy rather than reinforcing it. Let us encourage our adolescents to co-operate and not to compete with us. They should not be excluded from work and social responsibility. Youth should be made to feel itself necessary, this will open up the natural altruistic side, for adolescence is really one of the most altruistic of ages. Examples of what might be done towards the furtherance of this project are given. Criticism of the general adult attitude towards sex follows and is emphasized in connection with the scholastic proneness to condemn homosexual tendencies, examples being given. In conclusion it is pointed out that in a case of severe conflict the adult attitude will not count for much, but that psychotherapy will.

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Article Citation

Riggall, R.M. (1933). Childhood. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 14:406-407

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