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Laufer, M. (1981). Adolescent Breakdown and the Transference Neurosis. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 62:51-59.

(1981). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 62:51-59

Adolescent Breakdown and the Transference Neurosis

Moses Laufer

When reference is made to psychopathology in adolescence, we often are referring to manifest or descriptive signs of pathological development which are commonly associated with this period—anorexia, attempted suicide, drug addiction, acute psychosis, or the more quiet pathologies such as depression, academic failure, perverse sexual development, work inhibitions, and so on. The adolescent himself may feel that there is nothing wrong, or he may be troubled by a feeling of purposelessness, by an inability to maintain relationships, by a feeling that he has no future, or by a feeling that he may be mad in some way. If psychopathology seems to be present, the diagnostic and prognostic questions which must be answered are—what is wrong?; is it reversible?; is development proceeding or is there now a statemate?; which form of intervention, if any, would be most suitable?

I will not discuss the many and often divergent views about the presence of psychopathology in adolescence and the appropriateness or otherwise of treatment during adolescence. Instead, I will address myself primarily to the position I take, and to the assumptions I make to support that position. Until recently, I viewed adolescent pathology as being a breakdown in the developmental process, and that it is a breakdown that occurs at puberty. I have begun to question the timing of this breakdown simply because of the many very disturbed or ill adolescents whose clinical material suggests something else, or for whom there has to be an extension of this view.

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