"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
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
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
Additional information

This thesis supplied via ROAR to UEL-registered users is protected by copyright and other intellectual property rights, and duplication of any part of the material is not permitted, except for your personal use for the purposes of non-commercial research and private study in electronic or print form. You must obtain permission from the copyright-holder for any other use. Electronic or print copies may not be offered, for sale or otherwise, to anyone. No quotation from the thesis may be published without proper acknowledgement.

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