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Karasu, S.R. (1990). Childhood Bereavement and its Aftermath. Emotions and Behavior Monograph 8: Edited by Sol Altschul, M.D., with Foreword by George H. Pollock, M.D. Madison, CT: International Universities Press, Inc., 1988. 459 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 59:305-309.

(1990). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 59:305-309

Childhood Bereavement and its Aftermath. Emotions and Behavior Monograph 8: Edited by Sol Altschul, M.D., with Foreword by George H. Pollock, M.D. Madison, CT: International Universities Press, Inc., 1988. 459 pp.

Review by:
Sylvia R. Karasu

How do children experience the loss of a loved one? Do they mourn as adults do? The literature on childhood reactions to death contains much disagreement. Authors such as Wolfenstein believe that children have what she called a "developmental unreadiness" for mourning prior to adolescence; i.e., they cannot mourn until they give up their first incestuous objects. Others, such as Anna Freud, hesitate to apply the term mourning to the bereavement reactions of very young children until there is a certain capacity for reality testing and object constancy; certainly this develops well before adolescence. Most authors acknowledge that children do react profoundly to death, particularly to those closest to them, such as a parent, but that their reactions may differ substantially from those of the adults around them. Such is the belief of the authors included in this collection of papers edited by Sol Altschul. It is a welcome addition to the literature.

In his introduction, Altschul notes that the original interest in how children cope with mourning the death of a parent grew out of the work of Joan Fleming, who, in the 1950's, became interested in adult analytic patients who had themselves suffered the death of a parent in their formative years. What Fleming found out was that these patients often denied the significance of the loss; they thus avoided the mourning process, which in turn led to an incomplete mourning and an arrest in ego development.

In 1976, the Barr-Harris Center for the Study of Separation and Loss during Childhood was set up under the auspices of the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis. Since its inception, the Center has provided services to over three hundred children, ranging in age from two to ten years, who lost a parent by death in the previous two-year period. It is to be noted that the children and their families were seen for evaluation and/or psychotherapy and not for psychoanalysis.

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