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Wilson, P. (1989). Latency and Certainty. J. Child Psychother., 15(2):59-69.

(1989). Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 15(2):59-69

Latency and Certainty

Peter Wilson


The latency child presents the psychotherapist with a peculiar doubled-edged challenge: to overcome seemingly unmoving, even obtuse resistance, and to unravel and understand rich and imaginative fantasy material. There is, in a sense, no ambiguity — little between emphatic closed defence and definite open expression. In effect, there is a quality of certainty in both positions — and it is this feature, both defensive and adaptive in the context of experiential uncertainty and the developmental precariousness of this period of life, that forms the focus of this paper.

The overriding popular view of latency is that it is a time of quiescence—a time of relative order and composure, in many ways unexceptional and quick to pass over. For example, Dare and Pincus offer the following concise, if cursory, description of latency:

“The next stage in the life cycle for children between six and ten is relatively quiet in terms of emotional development and appropriately called the latency period. If care and prevailing love are reasonably good, the child of six is comfortable enough in his relationships with the family to be quiet inside himself. He can turn some of his energies to the outside world which at this stage is represented chiefly by school with its friendships and by the sharing of interests with his peers. This is probably the reason why most contemporary studies of this age group tend to concentrate on primary education…

So in our exploration of the family life cycle we shall move on to children in the age group between eleven and fourteen…

(Dare and Pincus, 1978, p.

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