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Mody, Z.R. Buchholz, E.S. (1988). Milieu for Change: The Therapeutic Education of a Motherchild Relationship. J. Child Psychother., 14(1):81-97.

(1988). Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 14(1):81-97

Milieu for Change: The Therapeutic Education of a Motherchild Relationship

Zarin R. Mody and Ester Schaler Buchholz


Although the term “deviational children” has lost its vogue, supplanted by the broader description “borderline”, many of the conceptualizations of Weil (1956) used to describe diagnosis and treatment of these children aptly apply to the case of a two-and-a-half-year-old-boy we discuss in this paper. She writes that: “the development in such children lacks integration at all times. They show peculiarities and unevenness of their maturational patterning, of their physiological functioning and of their psychological apparatus. They show delay in ego development and, frequently, deviations in the expression of libidinal and aggressive drives” (Weil, 1977, p. 86). In many of these children the ego continues to grow, although at a slowed rate and hence with a distorting effect on personality.

In order to facilitate diagnostic thinking and treatment planning, Weil (1973) formulates the disturbances in deviational children in metapsychological terms. “The most prominent features are intersystemic and intrasystemic imbalances: imbalance between ego and drives; imbalance within the ego; imbalance between libido and aggression, with aggression prevailing; and imbalance between nonhostile and hostile aggression” (Weil, 1973, p. 288). Thus these children show the greatest disturbances in integrative functioning. In a prescient fashion, she further states that often this imbalance is evident from infancy, with the result that an ordinarily devoted mother is unable to relieve her infant's tension and an initial regulatory stability between mother and infant cannot be achieved.

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