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Spiegel, L.A. (1949). Meetings of the New York Psychoanalytic Society. Psychoanal Q., 18:277-277.

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(1949). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 18:277-277

Meetings of the New York Psychoanalytic Society

Leo Angelo Spiegel

March 1, 1949. THE PREPUBERTY TRAUMA IN GIRLS. Phyllis Greenacre, M.D.

Prepuberal trauma is of special significance in female sexual development. Women in whom it occurred all suffered from severe disturbances of pregenital development and from intense, unresolved Oedipal struggles. Frequent primal scenes had evoked sadomasochistic fantasies reinforced by disturbances in anal functioning. There followed a more than usual masculine identification with a strubborn effort to resolve the threat of castration by means of an illusory penis. The prepuberal trauma regularly occurred at eleven or twelve and was always provoked by the girl herself. The later memory of the trauma is a condensed representation of the disturbances in preoedipal development which it serves to screen. Its dynamic significance derives from its use as a defense against entering the sexual conflicts of puberty since it serves as 'real' evidence of sexual dangers. Its defensive value is reinforced by its communication to adults who are then made to bear the guilt, thus allowing the child to conceal her own provocative rôle. (In the usual sexual contacts with other children this method of self-absolution is less easily practiced.) The prepuberal period is especially favorable for the provocation of such traumata since it is a period of heightened curiosity and increased activity.

Berta Bornstein raised the question of regressive deformation of genital orgasm appearing in the form of massive body discharges, such as copious diarrhea. She stressed general restriction of the ego (inactivity, idleness and restraint) rather than compulsive symptoms which appeared as a regressive response to pregenital strivings. She suggested that prepuberal experiences have a special significance for character formation and perhaps for the development of psychopathic personalities.

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