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Downey, W.T. (2000). Little Orphan Anastasia: The Analysis of an Adopted Russian Girl. Psychoanal. St. Child, 55:145-179.

(2000). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 55:145-179

Clinical and Developmental Contributions

Little Orphan Anastasia: The Analysis of an Adopted Russian Girl

Wayne T. Downey, M.D.

It is becoming commonplace for analysts to hear about or encounter in their clinical work adopted children from Korea, China, Eastern Europe, or Russia. There is wide variation in the orphanage experience from one area to another and also in the manner in which the transitional phase from orphanage to adoptive parents is carried out. Not surprisingly, the experience of being an orphan carries with it lifelong implications and repercussions, particularly in the area of self/object relations. Some of the problems of being an orphan are obvious at the time of adoption. Others unfold only in the course of subsequent development. We are increasingly called upon to assist adoptive families whose children are struggling amid much pain and confusion with the aftermath of the threefold experience of becoming an orphan, being raised in an orphanage, and joining a family of another culture.

This essay describes in some detail the infancy and early childhood of “Little Orphan Anastasia” as she picks through the emotional rubble of her infancy and samples the embarrassment of rich nurture in her current life with her adoptive parents, the Carters. This is followed by a description of the opening phase of her analysis, in which I sketch some of her attempts to fashion an adapted identity that is more congruent with her life before and after her adoption.

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