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Horner, T.M. Rosenberg, E.B. (1991). The Family Romance: A Developmental-Historical Perspective. Psychoanal. Psychol., 8(2):131-148.

(1991). Psychoanalytic Psychology, 8(2):131-148

The Family Romance: A Developmental-Historical Perspective

Thomas M. Horner, Ph.D. and Elinor B. Rosenberg, M.S.W.

The concept of family romance has played a prominent role in psychodynamic conceptualizations of development. In many quarters it is viewed as a naturally occurring phenomenon centering on the emerging identity and narcissistic re-equilibrations of the late latency-aged child heading toward the pubertal crest of adolescent ego development. This essay examines the concept of family romance from the perspective of childhood in Western sociocultural history. It traces the child's emerging awareness of kinship structures and bonds, and explores its roots as a clinically significant phenomenon. Focusing on the special but numerous cases throughout history of uprooted (displaced, fostered, or adopted) children, we conclude that the family romances of both rooted and uprooted children derive from an interplay of sociocultural dynamics with the self-representational dynamics of the pre-pubertal child, and that family romances in their elaborated forms are specific to the (a) uprooted child's unique tasks of blending emerging kinship knowledge with the realities and associated affects of being a displaced person, and (b) the rooted child's coming to terms with societal factors relating to child loss, theft, and abandonment.

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