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Haber, C.H. (1991). The Psychoanalytic Treatment of a Preschool Boy with a Gender Identity Disorder. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 39:107-129.

(1991). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 39:107-129

The Psychoanalytic Treatment of a Preschool Boy with a Gender Identity Disorder

Calvin H. Haber, M.D.


A three-year, nine-month-old boy began analysis by wishing he was a girl and pretending he was a superheroine. Over the course of almost five years, the cross-gender defense against fear of loss of the object, anal loss, and castration by the object reorganized in all libidinal phases through early latency. Developmental arrests seemed to occur during the anal rapprochement and oedipal phases that led to observable cross-gender stivings by two and a half years of age. The role of early childhood illness, narcissistic vulnerability, mother's childhood wish for a sister, the mother's adult wish for a daughter, a shared fantasy between mother and child, identification with the perceived power and beauty of mother and grandmother, pathological sibling rivalry that influenced identification with his sister, were demonstrated in his play during sessions. Interwoven in the background was the impact of an emotionally absent father, a dying grandfather, and an accident-prone uncle. This paternal matrix seemed to discourage budding masculinity and encourage feminine identifications.

The analyst's approach and the child's responses to interpretation of the transference manifestations, cross-gender behavior, fantasies, and play are presented. Finally, the gradual resolution of the conflicted wish to be a girl was supplanted by the emergence of appropriate gender identification. A two-year followup appeared to confirm his postanalytic gender stance and continuing consolidation of stable gender development.

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