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James, M. (1964). Interpretation and Management in the Treatment of Preadolescents:—The Handling of Pre-Oedipal and Oedipal Material in Child Development and Psycho-Analysis. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 45:499-511.

(1964). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 45:499-511

Interpretation and Management in the Treatment of Preadolescents:—The Handling of Pre-Oedipal and Oedipal Material in Child Development and Psycho-Analysis

Martin James

The Preadolescent Phase: A Separate Entity

This paper builds upon the many pioneering papers which have ably set out the features of a special preadolescent phase metapsychologically distinct from those of latency, adolescence, and adult life.

A basic experience in preadolescence is that puberty brings the threat of incest as a reality. This threat is actual in the world and in the transference for biological reasons, for it is the economic pressures of puberty which cause an actual neurosis and actual psychosis (Spiegel, 1958). This leads to three characteristic reactions:

i. Merging of ego-boundaries in the transference with the analyst.

ii. Fear of emotional surrender (A. Freud, 1951).

iii. Fear of the phallic mother.

These phenomena, because of puberty, are as characteristic of the phase as the fact that nearly all boys in puberty grow facial hair and nearly all girls menstruate. They are manifested whatever the diagnosis.

Dynamically the distinction between preadolescents and adolescents lies in their relation to incestuous objects. We use the term adolescent just because, although there are focal areas of adult disengagement, there also remain focal areas of preadolescent tie to the incestuous object. The important clinical sign which discriminates the two phases has been defined by Fraiberg (1955) as that of adolescent 'removal' from the object (Katan, 1951). When removal is effective the adolescent process is in train and conflict is lost to analysis by being acted out.

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