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Wulff, M. (1951). The Problem of Neurotic Manifestations in Children of Preoedipal Age. Psychoanal. St. Child, 6:169-179.

(1951). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 6:169-179

The Problem of Neurotic Manifestations in Children of Preoedipal Age

M. Wulff, M.D.

The neurotic phenomena manifested by children of preoedipal age present problems which have not yet been definitely clarified in the psychoanalytic literature. It has not yet been decided whether we are permitted to speak of the neurotic manifestations, exhibited in the period of life between one and four years, in the same sense as we do of the neuroses of adults; i.e., whether we are to conceive of them as definite, well-defined clinical syndromes, although there is no doubt that even at this young age we can observe the most variegated neurotic symptoms which in their manifest form closely resemble adult neuroses. Freud states of his little phobic patient that he is not the only child who, during one period of childhood, suffered from phobias (3). Such diseases are known to be very frequent even in children whose upbringing leaves little to wish for as far as strictness is concerned. These children either become neurotic at a later age or they remain healthy. Their phobias are screamed down in the nurseries, because they are inaccessible to treatment and certainly extremely inconvenient (3).

Elsewhere Freud made the following remark about the neurotic manifestations of childhood: "The order in which the principal forms of neurosis are customarily ranked, namely—hysteria, obsessional neurosis, paranoia, dementia praecox—corresponds (if not quite exactly) to the order of incidence of these diseases from childhood onward. Hysterical manifestations may be observed already in early childhood; the first symptoms of obsessional neurosis usually declare themselves in the second period of childhood (from six to eight years of age); whilst the other two psychoneuroses, which I have coupled under the joint designation paraphrenia, first appear after puberty and during adult life" (4p. 123).

In the meantime, the development of the technique of play analysis has increased the number of published case histories of analyzed neuroses of children, and our conception of the neurotic manifestations of the preoedipal phase must be integrated with our new experiences.

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