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Bell, S.M. (2004). Early Vulnerability in the Development of the Sense of Maleness: Castration Depression in the Phallic-Narcissistic Phase. Psychoanal. St. Child, 59:100-123.

(2004). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 59:100-123

Early Vulnerability in the Development of the Sense of Maleness: Castration Depression in the Phallic-Narcissistic Phase

Silvia M. Bell, Ph.D.

This paper considers Brenner's (1975, 1979, 1982) modification of Freud's theory that anxiety is the only signal affect. Brenner introduced the notion that castration depressive affect also can trigger psychic conflict, defense, and symptom formation. Clinical material from the first year of treatment of a three-year-old boy who suffered a regression in daytime bladder control is presented. The focus is threefold: First, to show that the often cited but poorly studied symptom of regression in bladder control may be an indicator of the child's struggle with the three calamities of childhood (object loss, loss of love, and castration); second, to present data that support the importance in early symptom formation of both anxiety and depressive affect tied to the ideation of castration as well as of object loss; third, to suggest that vulnerability to castration depression is a concept more pertinent to the stage presently labeled the phallic-narcissistic phase, rather than to the oedipal phase of development. The discussion addresses the importance of castration depressive affect as a concept in guiding therapeutic intervention. Vulnerability to castration depressive affect is postulated

to be more prominent in the phallic-narcissistic phase because phallic self representation is not yet consolidated.

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