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Symonds, A. (1985). Separation and Loss: Significance for Women. Am. J. Psychoanal., 45(1):53-58.

(1985). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 45(1):53-58

Separation and Loss: Significance for Women

Alexandra Symonds, M.D.

Large scale studies, as well as my own clinical experience, indicate that women express more suffering from separations than men (1-3). In discussing this difference, there is a danger that this will be seen as yet another defect in women to be added to all the other things which are wrong with them. My previous work on the consequences of excessive dependency in women (4, 5) has been used by some in a pejorative way, to strengthen existing discrimination, and as further proof of women's inborn inferiority. We must keep in mind that when we try to understand gender differences in behavior, character structure, or personality traits, we must also recognize the existence of age-old prejudice and rigid stereotypes, even in those who consider themselves scientists. Since most of the traits which are found more often in women are considered by our culture to be inferior, new work is in danger of strengthening prejudice. Women fall into the class of chronic victims of discrimination. Allport, in his classic study of traits of chronic victimization (6), described the process in which chronic victims of prejudice develop certain behavior patterns in order to survive, and these behavior patterns and traits are then used by others to perpetuate discrimination. Women fit into this pattern. After untold centuries of being forbidden an education, ownership of property, participation in the world of politics, arts, professions, and industry except at the lowest level, women learned that their survival depended on being chosen as partners to men and taken care of by men. Their survival depended on becoming lovable and pleasing to those caretakers. The traits which they developed of dependency, compliance, and fear of self-assertion are then viewed as evidence of their incompetence and inferiority.

We know that there are gender differences in behavior patterns.

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