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Berkowitz, D.A. Shapiro, R.L. Zinner, J. Shapiro, E.R. (1974). Family Contributions to Narcissistic Disturbances in Adolescents. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 1:353-362.

(1974). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 1:353-362

Family Contributions to Narcissistic Disturbances in Adolescents

David A. Berkowitz, Roger L. Shapiro, John Zinner and Edward R. Shapiro


This paper focuses on the role played by families in the failure of their narcissistically disturbed adolescents to develop adequate psychic structure for integrated and independent self-esteem regulation. Complementary to the task of the adolescent, the task of the family for facilitating the adolescent's consolidation of adequate mechanisms for maintaining narcissistic equilibrium is discussed.

The authors have observed from conjoint family interaction in these families a narcissistic vulnerability, manifested in extreme vacillations between contradictory states of self-regard and in over-dependence on the confirming approval of external objects, parallel to these characteristics in the adolescent himself. In these families the child has a basic function of maintaining parental self-esteem by colluding in re-enacting with the parents significant relationships that affected the parents' self-esteem in their families of origin. The parents experience the adolescent's phase-appropriate separation-individuation as a narcissistic loss and injury, and regress to a mode of relationship that is increasingly dominated by projection, as behaviours of the adolescent which herald separation and autonomy threaten precarious parental self-esteem. In their resulting narcissistic rage, the parents often reactively devalue the adolescent and attempt to restore their own narcissistic equilibrium by projecting into him their disowned, negative valuations of themselves. In the adolescent, parental rage precipitates a narcissistic regression to fixations which originated in childhood struggles over separation-individuation.

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