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Ornstein, A. (1996). Panel Report: Psychic Reality And Psycho-Social Problems In Children: Chaired by PAULINA KERNBERG, New York. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 77:383-385.

(1996). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 77:383-385

Panel Report: Psychic Reality And Psycho-Social Problems In Children: Chaired by PAULINA KERNBERG, New York

Anna Ornstein

Papers related to this important and timely subject were provided by four panellists who offered their particular psychoanalytic theory to explain the manner in which psycho-social problems impact on the structuring of psychic reality in children. Because of the panellists' differing theoretical perspectives, the discussion (among them as well as from the floor) concerned itself mainly with the clarification of these differences.

The discrepancy in theoretical orientation was representative of the authors' differing views on the significance of external reality in the structuring of psychic reality. On the one end of this spectrum, one of the panellists, Judith Wallerstein, stated that divorce not only changes family structure but ‘what is striking is that the entire patterning of conscious and unconscious psychological needs, wishes, and expectations that parents and children bring to each other is profoundly altered under the impact of divorce’. Wallerstein presented the treatment of a 4-year-old boy and his parents that included follow-up interviews one and two years later.

To my mind the case did not demonstrate the author's thesis convincingly, namely, that it was the divorce per se that had interfered with the parents' parenting abilities. In the case presented, the mother was seriously addicted to alcohol and drugs and the parents' separation and subsequent divorce were precipitated by her impulsively moving in with a drug dealer. Importantly, she became a dependable mother once she overcame her drug addiction, which would indicate that her parenting abilities depended more on her emotional condition than on her marital status.

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