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Laufer, M. (1968). The Body Image, the Function of Masturbation, and Adolescence—Problems of the Ownership of the Body. Psychoanal. St. Child, 23:114-137.

(1968). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 23:114-137

The Body Image, the Function of Masturbation, and Adolescence—Problems of the Ownership of the Body

Moses Laufer, Ph.D.

The ideas I wish to examine in this paper are based on observations made during the treatment of disturbed adolescents. Although the clinical material that I shall present is related to the pathology of these adolescents, it is normal adolescence which I am trying to understand. I shall examine (1) the role that masturbation and masturbation fantasies play in enabling the adolescent to establish the primacy of genitality; and (2) the internal factors which determine whether or not the adolescent will succeed in changing the image of his body so that this image will include his mature genitals as functioning organs.

I have often been faced with the need to decide whether some of the behavior or fantasies which adolescents reported was part of normal adolescence or whether these contained the core of their pathology. Some adolescents reported masturbation fantasies which sounded very regressive in nature, but they did not seem to interfere seriously with their social and sexual adaptation. Other adolescents


The author is a member of the Hampstead Child-Therapy Clinic, which is at present maintained 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.

Director, Centre for the Study of Adolescence/Brent Consultation Centre. The Centre for the Study of Adolescence is supported by The Grant Foundation, Inc., New York. The Brent Consultation Centre, a walk-in consultation service for adolescents, is under the auspices of the Education Department, London Borough of Brent. Honorary staff member, University College Hospital, Department of Psychological Medicine, London.

Part of this paper was presented to the British Psycho-Analytical Society, July, 1968.

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