"A boy Afraid of his Shadow": A Study of how the Experience of a Violent Father has Impacted upon a Latency boy's Development and Search for Identity

Prof Doc Thesis

Slater, Peter 2009. "A boy Afraid of his Shadow": A Study of how the Experience of a Violent Father has Impacted upon a Latency boy's Development and Search for Identity. Prof Doc Thesis University of East London School of Psychology
AuthorsSlater, Peter
TypeProf Doc Thesis

This thesis has set out to explore the topical issue of the role and function of violence for a young male. The task has also been to illustrate those factors that have impinged upon this latency boy's emotional development and search for a sense of self in light of early traumatic experiences with a violent father. The thesis discusses in detail, through the analysis of clinical material, the extent to which an aggressive, violent paternal object has been internalised, as well as the external forces that have re-enforced such a personification.
The study charts the progress of the therapeutic treatment revealing the gradual development of the child's reflective capacity. This facilitated an exploration and modification of existing states of mind, which were clearly obstacles to his ongoing emotional development. Careful use of transference and counter-transference material within the clinical sessions was the key to this progress and development taking place.
Analysis, coding and sampling of the clinical data was undertaken using a grounded theory, qualitative research methodology. Application of grounded theory allowed for the generation of themes which emerged from the clinical data, themes which were then organised and presented using an adaptation of Meltzer's (1976) philosophy around the use of "temperature" and "distance" as a means of regulating emotional undulations in the therapeutic setting. In this way, it is hoped that this thesis will contribute to and extend ideas for those child psychotherapists working with violent or severely deprived children.
The impact of the boy's exposure to domestic violence and the complex internal landscape that had arisen as a result of this early traumatic experience, are explored in great detail. Despite emphasis being placed on the boy's search for an alternative father figure through the therapeutic relationship with a male therapist, the ongoing enmeshed relationship with the maternal figure is also explored with reference to the degree to which this served to re-enforce the child's image of himself as a violent male inextricably linked to a violent father.
Linking to relevant psychoanalytic literature, one of the tasks of this study has been to highlight the role of the father in early child development, and the complex nature of how parental figures are internalised. The complexity of this process is captured via the research participant's ongoing internal conflict of enacting a violent male figure from his past, while attempting to integrate what was to become an emerging reflective capacity.
This investigation highlights the great difficulties involved when working with violent and severely deprived children, but also emphasises what a rich and rewarding experience this can be for both the clinician and the patient. This thesis is therefore aimed at those child psychotherapists engaged in work with such challenging children in the hope that this research will contribute to further thinking about and understanding of the complex processes involved in work in this field. In this vein, Meltzer's (1976) ideas on "temperature and distance" are adapted to incorporate the dimensions of "time" and "space". This is partly as a means of structuring and organising the themes which emerged from the clinical data, but is also a useful aide-memoir tor clinicians to follow in structuring their thinking and practice when working with those children in particular, who present with violent and aggressive behaviours.
I believe that fundamentally, the psychoanalytic psychotherapy undertaken with the research participant was very successful in allowing important issues to be addressed and in modifying existing states of mind. It presented him with an alternative experience of a paternal figure, which allowed for some separation from a rather entangled relationship with the maternal figure. At the conclusion of the work, although aggressive and violent impulses were still being externalised, there was substantial evidence of a growing interest in his mind and with it, a capacity for symbolic functioning. The end of our work together, demonstrated this emergent capacity to think about difficult feelings,especially feelings of separation and loss without recourse to mechanisms of avoidance or expulsion.

Publication dates
PrintOct 2009
Publication process dates
Deposited12 Jun 2014
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