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Fagan, M. (2011). Relational trauma and its impact on late-adopted children. J. Child Psychother., 37(2):129-146.

(2011). Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 37(2):129-146

Relational trauma and its impact on late-adopted children

Maggie Fagan

This paper describes work with two children, placed for late adoption who have suffered relational trauma. The paper explores the long-term consequences of such trauma, which includes problems with affect regulation, difficulties in generalising from one experience to another and shifts between phantasies of omnipotent control and sudden helplessness. Using drawings from one boy's therapy, it is argued that many children adopted at a later age live in two worlds, both internal and external, and internal objects and memories from the past vie with new experiences and representations for ascendancy within the child's mind. Which is more real: the world of the past or the present? The paper describes how these children experienced sudden and troubling shifts in focus as they were catapulted from feeling states belonging to one world to the other. The paper ends with a consideration of how findings from neuroscience may help us to understand these sudden shifts and overall argues for a pulling together of psychoanalytic thinking and child development research findings to support the child in psychotherapy.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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