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Laufer, M. (1981). The Psychoanalyst and the Adolescent's Sexual Development. Psychoanal. St. Child, 36:181-191.

(1981). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 36:181-191

The Psychoanalyst and the Adolescent's Sexual Development

Moses Laufer, Ph.D.

IN RECENT YEARS THERE HAS BEEN A GREAT DEAL OF QUESTIONING OF the assumption that certain forms of sexual activity or behavior should be considered as being signs of abnormality. This doubt about such categorization is based partly on the changes in attitudes and laws which have taken place and are taking place in various Western countries, but more critical for purposes of this paper is the fact that such doubt also rests on the questioning by professional colleagues of the criteria or the explanations which have been applied to certain activity or behavior and which have resulted in the classification "abnormal."

Another impetus for this doubting and questioning has come from the growing awareness by both professional and lay people that the categorization of certain activity and behavior as either normal (and therefore acceptable) or abnormal (and therefore unacceptable) has enabled part of the adult community to judge, attack, and humiliate another part of the community without much need to examine some of their own motives. "Abnormality," especially "sexual abnormality," has been used for centuries as a description of the ultimate in debasement or denigration, and it is only recently that there has begun to be some freedom in doubting this, and ultimately in rejecting this.

My own view is that, in our work with the adolescent, it is critical to separate our own views about normality and abnormality within the context of society, and our views about "sexual abnormality"


Director, Centre for Research into Adolescent Breakdown/Brent Consultation Centre, London. Part-time member, Hampstead Child-Therapy Clinic.

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