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Békés, V. Perry, J.C. Robertson, B.M. (2017). Masochism: A Mixed-Method Analysis of Its Development, Psychological Function, and Conceptual Evolution. Psychoanal. Rev., 104(1):33-63.

(2017). Psychoanalytic Review, 104(1):33-63

Masochism: A Mixed-Method Analysis of Its Development, Psychological Function, and Conceptual Evolution

Vera Békés, Ph.D., J. Christopher Perry, MPH, M.D. and Brian M. Robertson, M.D.

This article reviewed the concept of masochism by using a mixed-method approach to analyze 23 publications from 1924 to 2012 by authors from different psychoanalytic schools. Qualitative analysis showed that most authors emphasized painful early attachments, early injury of self-representation, identification with an abusing parent, and narcissistic injury as core experiences in the early childhood of patients with masochism. The main psychological function of masochism was described as a way of avoiding uncontrollable suffering by willingly undertaking other, milder, more controllable suffering. Quantitative analyses using standardized measures of conflicts, defenses, and motives revealed that most authors described early, global psychodynamic conflicts, developmentally early motives, and both action-level and neurotic defenses in masochism. Correlation analyses showed that although the main ideas in the concept of masochism remained stable over time, emphasis on certain aspects changed. The findings provide a conceptual overview of masochism and hypotheses for further clinical studies.

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