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(1960). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association. VI, 1958: Pavor Nocturnus. Melitta Sperling. Pp. 79-94.. Psychoanal Q., 29:425-426.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association. VI, 1958: Pavor Nocturnus. Melitta Sperling. Pp. 79-94.

(1960). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 29:425-426

Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association. VI, 1958: Pavor Nocturnus. Melitta Sperling. Pp. 79-94.

A systematic psychoanalytic study of pavor nocturnus is presented in this lucid article. The main differences from the nightmare of the adult are the hypermotility and retrograde amnesia in the child's experience as compared to the feeling of paralysis and the vivid recall in the adult. Three distinct types of pavor nocturnus in children are described. In one type seemingly psychotic behavior predominates and the condition grows worse from the Oedipal phase into puberty. Characteristically these children have grown up in an atmosphere of sexual

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seduction while simultaneously their own sexual activity has been severely repudiated, causing a pathological split of the superego. The corrupted superego then allows break-through of the forbidden impulses when the child is neither asleep nor fully awake, somewhat as occurs in psychotics who have disturbances in the ability to awaken during the day. This type is related to somnambulistic, fugue, and amnesic states, and to overt psychoses. A second type characteristically has sudden onset after a trauma and often represents the initial phase of a later traumatic neurosis; it is characterized by fitful sleep with frequent awakenings in anxiety from a dream which represents the original traumatic situation and a need to claim the protecting parent. The child can ward off memory of the trauma during the day when the mother is present and motility is possible, but at night the memory returns more easily, leading to revival of the traumatic experience. Awakening enables the child to attempt to master the trauma by securing protection of the mother, whereas in sleep he feels in danger of being overwhelmed by it, with loss of control and of reality. In this type aggressive impulses are more predominant as contrasted with the sexual impulses of the first type, and psychosomatic disorders are more likely to be associated with this type. A third type more closely resembles that of adults inasmuch as the child awakens in anxiety with vivid memory of the contents of the dream. Pavor nocturnus is a frequent phenomenon in childhood, has its origins in the conflicts of the Oedipal phase, and is most often associated with neurotic disturbances.

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Article Citation

(1960). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association. VI, 1958. Psychoanal. Q., 29:425-426

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