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Meltzer, D. (1967). Identification and Socialization in Adolescents. Contemp. Psychoanal., 3(2):96-103.

(1967). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 3(2):96-103

Identification and Socialization in Adolescents

Donald Meltzer, M.D.


In this brief paper I have tried to outline some of the knowledge gained by recent analytic experience with children carried into puberty and adolescents carried into adult life. This work was conducted within the framework of theory and technique which is an extension of the developments in psychoanalysis associated with the name of Melanie Klein. It draws very heavily on her delineation of the pregenital Oedipus conflicts, 1 the role of splitting processes in development, 2 and the phenomenology of projective identification as a dynamic mechanism. 2, 3 It may not be readily comprehended without a general understanding of her work. The most lucid description of this will be found in Hanna Segal's book. 6

The thesis has been exemplified, that the return of severe splitting processes, characteristic of infancy and early childhood, which attends the adolescent flux, requires externalization in group life so that the omnipotence and confusional states precipitated by the return

of masturbation at puberty may be worked through. The implications for sociological comprehension of the "adolescent world" as a social institution are apparent:

1. Individual psychotherapeutic work should be directed toward the isolated individual, to promote the socialization of his conflicts.

2. The "gang" formation of adolescents needs to be contained in its antisocial aspects but not to be intruded upon by adult guidance.

3. The emergence of individuals from adolescence into adult life is facilitated by measures which lessen the conflict between the sexual aspirations toward mating and other areas of ambition.

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