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Nierenberg, M.A. (1976). Meeting of the Psychoanalytic Association of New York. Psychoanal Q., 45:659-660.

(1976). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 45:659-660

Meeting of the Psychoanalytic Association of New York

Marvin A. Nierenberg

DISCUSSION: Dr. Paulina Kernberg observed that in her experience both child and adult patients who have been adopted often have severe character pathology. Such patients have infantile, impulse-ridden personalities with generally poorer prognoses than those reared by biological parents. Their superego defects and pathological narcissism may be encouraged by the adoptive parents' lies about their having been especially chosen for adoption and by the adoptive parents' need to use them in an attempt to repair narcissistic wounds resulting from their own sterility and other dissatisfactions.

Dr. Kernberg commented that the role and feelings of the professional who arranges for the adoption is suggested in Albee's plays; the professional may be unconsciously perceived as one who humiliates and deceives, yet is sanctioned by law and the church. She also noted references in Tiny Alice to the adoptive mother's envy of her child's intimacy with another woman (the biological mother). The adopted child, fearing his sterile parents' envy, may submit to their prohibitions and renounce his own genital strivings. The unique developmental task of an adopted child is to accept the facts of adoption—namely, awareness of being the natural child of unknown biological parents as well as emotional acceptance of the parent-child ties with his adoptive parents.

Among several goals Dr. Kernberg recommends in analyzing adopted patients are: 1, full exploration of identifications with adoptive and natural parent images; 2, increasing the patient's tolerance of ambiguity without disturbing the sense of identity; 3, understanding the patient's feelings about being adopted at each stage of the transference; 4, working with the adoptive parents' needs to deny the adoption.


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