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Sohn, L. (1985). Adolescence and Developmental Breakdown — A Psychoanalytic View by Moses Laufer and M. Egle Laufer Published by Yale University Press 1984 240 pp. £18.00. Psychoanal. Psychother., 1(2):87-90.

(1985). Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, 1(2):87-90

Adolescence and Developmental Breakdown — A Psychoanalytic View by Moses Laufer and M. Egle Laufer Published by Yale University Press 1984 240 pp. £18.00

Review by:
Leslie Sohn

This exciting book begins with a clear concise introduction which tells us what we are going to be told, and sticks firmly to the design.

” This book sets out to apply psychoanalytic discoveries to the understanding of the disorders of adolescence, and to their assessment and treatment”.

We are as if invited to a series of fascinating clinical seminars which relate to the theory, practice and treatment of disturbed, and in some cases, very disturbed adolescents.

” It seemed that the reported incidence of suicide and attempted suicide was disproportionately high during adolescence and that the conscious decision to kill oneself did not exist as a social or clinical problem before adolescence. Later we realised that our adolescent patients, unlike most of our adult patients, seemed especially vulnerable either to attacking their bodies physically or to doing something that would, in fantasy, alter the image of their bodies, through anorexia, obesity, self-mutilation, or drug-taking and addiction. In addition, every one of our adolescent patients was deeply concerned about the normality or the abnormality of his behaviour and thoughts, a preoccupation which invariably referred to sexual normality or abnormality.

From these observations, and from our shared experience in working at an adolescent walk-in service and at a psychoanalytic research center for adolescents, we realised that the same questions could be asked about many adolescents: Why the sudden signs of mental illness, which are readily diagnosed as schizophrenia? Why severe depression, or anorexia, or signs of sexual abnormality, or violence that seems to be not the result of a social norm, but a response to inner voices or to the need to keep out of consciousness the feeling of being abnormal?

We concentrate on an examination of the developmental function of adolescence and its relation to the disorders of this period.”

We are told the central theoretical pivot” … elaborated in this book is that the break in the developmental process of adolescence is the pathology, because the outcome of such a break must be a distorted relationship to oneself as a sexual being, a passive relationship to the parent of the same sex, and the giving up of the wish or the ability to leave infantile sexuality behind.

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