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Novick, J. Novick, K.K. (1972). Beating Fantasies in Children. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 53:237-242.

(1972). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 53:237-242

Beating Fantasies in Children

Jack Novick and Kerry Kelly Novick


In our study of the role of beating fantasies in normal and pathological development we found it helpful to define fantasy as conscious daydream. It is of course arbitrary how one employs a concept but we believe our approach demonstrates the value of maintaining distinctions among types of mental content and narrowing the referents of the term fantasy. Thus we found that beating wishes and beating games are universal, whereas the beating fantasy itself occurs infrequently. Further, we found that our material then fell into two sets, with significant differences between the sexes as to the functions and determinants of the fantasy.

In girls the sequence of a beating wish at the anal phase leading to a phallic beating game and then, in some girls, to a beating fantasy in latency paralleled the sequence reconstructed by Freud (1919); like Freud, we found that passive beating wishes and beating fantasies in girls represented both positive oedipal strivings and punishment for incestuous wishes. For girls the passive beating wish and even the beating fantasy of latency are often transitional phenomena. Although the presence of a beating fantasy in a girl signifies the persistence of intense libidinal wishes towards her father, if forward development is not too much interfered with, the beating fantasy may act as a 'second chance' for girls to establish the passive-feminine position and then move on to age-appropriate derivative wishes.

Although the beating fantasies could be seen in the context of normal development in girls, we failed to find any such fantasies in our group of normal/neurotic boys. We did, however, find beating fantasies arising at puberty in a group of severely disturbed boys. In these boys we saw that the beating fantasy became the permanent focus of the child's psychosexual life, and this was due to the multiple functions and determinants of the fantasy. The beating fantasy was rooted in an early sadomasochistic relationship to the mother and we concluded that a beating fantasy in a boy was indicative of severe disturbance in ego and drive development.

We have not attempted to make direct links between our findings and formulations in the literature on adult beating fantasies, but we believe that the distinctions we have drawn between types of mental content, the separate examination of male and female development and the relationships we have suggested between masochism and beating fantasies could fruitfully be applied to material from the analysis of adults.

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