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Zinner, J. Shapiro, R. (1972). Projective Identification as a Mode of Perception and Behaviour in Families of Adolescents. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 53:523-530.

(1972). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 53:523-530

Projective Identification as a Mode of Perception and Behaviour in Families of Adolescents

John Zinner and Roger Shapiro


In summary, we have been examining from a psychoanalytic perspective family group dynamics in relation to psychological outcome of the adolescent. Family group behaviour and subjective experience are determined to varying degrees by shared unconscious fantasies or unconscious assumptions. Role allocations for the collusive playing out of these fantasies are communicated and evoked in family members by the mechanism of projective identification. The threat of parental anxiety and object loss is an important factor determining the collusion of the adolescent with parental projections.

Projective identification occurs in all families but the adolescent outcome is determined among other factors by the contents of parental projection, intensity of parental defensive needs, and the parent's own ability to experience himself as separate from his offspring.

The fact of differing adolescent outcomes within the same family group can be accounted for by the relationship-specific quality of parental projective identifications, i.e. the different meanings each child has for his parents.

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