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Freud, A. (1962). Assessment of Childhood Disturbances. Psychoanal. St. Child, 17:149-158.

(1962). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 17:149-158

Aspects of Normal and Pathological Development

Assessment of Childhood Disturbances

Anna Freud

When diagnosing the mental disturbances of children, the child analyst is confronted with difficulties which are due to the shifting internal scene in a developing individual and which are not met with in adult psychiatry.

One of these difficulties concerns the fact that, during development, symptoms, inhibitions, and anxieties do not necessarily carry the same significance which they assume at a later date. Although in some cases they may be lasting, and thus the first signs of permanent pathology, in other cases they need be no more than transient appearances of stress which emerge whenever a particular phase of development makes specially high demands on a child's personality. After adaptation to that particular phase has been achieved, or when its peak has passed, these seemingly pathological appearances either may disappear again without leaving much trace, or make way for others. In either case, what is left behind may be no more than an area of heightened vulnerability. These semblances of "spontaneous cures" are the equivalent of what used to be called "outgrowing" of difficulties, a phrase which, though outmoded, is in reality still quite appropriate.


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