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Freud, A. (1952). The Role of Bodily Illness in the Mental Life of Children. Psychoanal. St. Child, 7:69-81.

(1952). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 7:69-81

Original Articles

The Role of Bodily Illness in the Mental Life of Children

Anna Freud


In carrying further the author's and other writers' studies of separation anxiety (hospitalization) this paper surveys the other factors which play a part in the child's reaction to bodily illness. The effects of the various nursing, medical and surgical procedures which are open to modification are distinguished from those elements which are inherent in the process of illness itself, such as the effects of pain and the inevitable changes of libido distribution. Lastly, a comparison is drawn between the state of deprived children who care for their bodies in identification with their lost mothers and the adult hypochondriac who overcathects his body with libido after it has been withdrawn from the object world.

In summarizing these factors which play an important role in every normal development the author wishes once more to stress how serious a measure hospitalization is, separating the child from the rightful owner of his body at the very moment when this body is threatened by dangers from inside as well as from the environment.

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