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Laufer, M. (1966). Object Loss and Mourning During Adolescence. Psychoanal. St. Child, 21:269-293.

(1966). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 21:269-293

Object Loss and Mourning During Adolescence

Moses Laufer, M.S

The psychoanalytic study of childhood has given us a clear picture of the changes in the mental apparatus which are expected to occur at various stages of development (A. Freud, 1965). If these changes do occur, we assume that progressive development is continuing and that the child does not have to seek solutions which will result in a distortion of his relation to himself and to external reality. A similar statement can be made about adolescence as a developmental stage. Unless a person succeeds in accomplishing certain defined tasks during adolescence (Laufer, 1965) his ego functioning as an adult will contain areas that are impaired. How the adolescent experiences these tasks is determined by a number of factors—the level of object relationship reached at the time of superego internalization, the defenses available to deal with anxiety, the strength of the fixations, the quality of the fantasies, the uses made of identifications. In the adult, however, we see the result of the various compromises. When we meet adult patients, we always find that, whatever their manifest complaint, its internal equivalent is similar: they are aware of failure in one or more of those areas which should have actively been dealt with in adolescence. On the other hand, the clinical pictures presented by adults also show much greater deadlock and much more distortion than those of adolescents.


The author is a member of the Hampstead Child-Therapy Clinic, which is maintained at present by The Field Foundation, Inc., New York; The Anna Freud Foundation, New York; The Grant Foundation, Inc., New York; The Estate of Flora Haas, New York; The Walter E. Meyer Research Institute of Law, New York; The National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, Maryland; The Old Dominion Foundation, New York; The Psychoanalytic Research and Development Fund, Inc., New York: The Taconic Foundation, Inc., New York.

Part of this paper was presented to the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis, April, 1966; and to the Canadian Psychoanalytic Society, Montreal, April, 1966.

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