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Snyder, J. Rogers, K. (2002). The Violent Adolescent: The Urge to Destroy Versus the Urge to Feel Alive. Am. J. Psychoanal., 62(3):237-253.

(2002). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 62(3):237-253

The Violent Adolescent: The Urge to Destroy Versus the Urge to Feel Alive

Jane Snyder, M.D. and Kenneth Rogers, EdD

The dynamics of adolescent violence are explored from theoretical and developmental perspectives applied to the review of psychoanalytic studies of violence and three cases: the case of Willie Bosket, presented in Fox Butterfield's All God's Children, an adolescent treated by one of the authors, and observation of staff dynamics in a juvenile detention facility. Studies indicate that violence is used to preserve a sense of existence and psychic equilibrium as well as to express rage and destroy unwanted projected parts of the self and dangerous intrusions into a fragile self-coherence. In the case studies, violent activity serves a number of psychic functions: it leads to high arousal states and the feeling of being alive thereby disavowing underlying feelings of deadness and depression, it serves to contain and discharge overwhelming chaotic and rageful feelings, and it enacts object ties and the unconscious fantasies of the parent. Staff dynamics in a treatment setting for juvenile offenders reflect the intrapsychic dynamics of the juvenile offender prone to acting out, projection, hypervigilance to signs of disrespect, and disavowal of unwanted affects including helplessness and vulnerability.

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