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Price, A. (1994). Effects of Maternal Deprivation on the Capacity to Play: A Winnicottian Perspective on Work With Inner-City Children. Psychoanal. Psychol., 11(3):341-355.

(1994). Psychoanalytic Psychology, 11(3):341-355

Effects of Maternal Deprivation on the Capacity to Play: A Winnicottian Perspective on Work With Inner-City Children

Adam Price, Ph.D.

This article addresses the challenge that inner-city children present to the psychoanalytically oriented therapist. Particularly, it is about one deeply troubled, severely deprived boy and his discovery of a capacity usually taken for granted in children: the capacity to become engrossed in play. Winnicott's work is used to understand how a life of neglect and deprivation might interfere with the development of symbolic play and, furthermore, how this capacity can be awakened in the course of treatment. The effects of maternal deprivation on development are traced to demonstrate the steps necessary for psychologically meaningful play to unfold. Play, which as an uninhibited and preoccupying activity is seated in the true self, grows out of the infant's transitional experiences. Maternal deprivation, which interferes with the child's self-formation, ultimately affects his or her ability to become engrossed in play. Therapy, however, can offer a transitional experience that facilitates the development of symbolic play.

It is the evening of the day,

I sit and watch the children pla.

Doing things I used to do, for them are new

I sit and watch as tears go by.

Mick Jagger, The Rolling Stones (1965)

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