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Canham, H. (1999). The Development of the Concept of Time in Fostered and Adopted Children. Psychoanal. Inq., 19(2):160-171.

(1999). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 19(2):160-171

The Development of the Concept of Time in Fostered and Adopted Children

Hamish Canham, M. Psych. Psych.

I HAVE NOTICED REPEATEDLY DISTORTIONS in the perception of time in fostered and adopted children: a 6-year-old girl in foster care who had no idea of what day of the week it was, a 12-year-old adopted girl who did not know how old she was or what time of the day it was, a 12-year-old fostered boy who could not tell the time, and a 15-year-old boy in therapy for a year who thought his sessions lasted for an hour and a half.

These difficulties with time are also apparent in an often confused sense of past, present, and future, where past experiences remain undifferentiated from the present and where an idea of the future is of something just like the past.

The consistency with which I have encountered this kind of phenomena has led me to question why the various experiences of fostered and adopted children have given rise to these distortions in the perception of time. In this paper, I want to look at some of the ways these distortions take place and how psychoanalytic psychotherapy can help deal with these difficulties.

It should be clear that, when I refer to the concept of time, I do not simply mean an ability to grasp chronological time as measured in minutes, hours, days, weeks, and so on, but also a sense of past, present, future; of order and sequence; of development; and of causality.

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