1st Edition

Boarding School Syndrome The psychological trauma of the 'privileged' child

By Joy Schaverien Copyright 2015
    264 Pages 27 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    264 Pages 27 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Boarding School Syndrome is an analysis of the trauma of the 'privileged' child sent to boarding school at a young age. Innovative and challenging, Joy Schaverien offers a psychological analysis of the long-established British and colonial preparatory and public boarding school tradition. Richly illustrated with pictures and the narratives of adult ex-boarders in psychotherapy, the book demonstrates how some forms of enduring distress in adult life may be traced back to the early losses of home and family. Developed from clinical research and informed by attachment and child development theories ‘Boarding School Syndrome’ is a new term that offers a theoretical framework on which the psychotherapeutic treatment of ex-boarders may build.

    Divided into four parts, History: In the Name of Privilege; Exile and Healing; Broken Attachments: A Hidden Trauma, and The Boarding School Body, the book includes vivid case studies of ex-boarders in psychotherapy. Their accounts reveal details of the suffering endured: loss, bereavement and captivity are sometimes compounded by physical, sexual and psychological abuse. Here, Joy Schaverien shows how many boarders adopt unconscious coping strategies including dissociative amnesia resulting in a psychological split between the 'home self' and the 'boarding school self'. This pattern may continue into adult life, causing difficulties in intimate relationships, generalized depression and separation anxiety amongst other forms of psychological distress.

    Boarding School Syndrome demonstrates how boarding school may damage those it is meant to be a reward and discusses the wider implications of this tradition. It will be essential reading for psychoanalysts, Jungian analysts, psychotherapists, art psychotherapists, counsellors and others interested in the psychological, cultural and international legacy of this tradition including ex-boarders and their partners. 

    List of Figures. Preface. Acknowledgements. List of abbreviation. Boarding School Syndrome – An Introduction. Part I: History - In the Name of Privilege. Man and Boy: A Brief History of Boarding Schools. All Girls Together: A Brief History of Boarding Schools. Part II: Exile and Healing. Developmental Trauma (Case Study Part 1). Mapping the Psyche: (Case Study Part 2). The Distortion of a Boy (Case Study Part 3). The Return: Trauma and the Developing Brain. (Case Study Part 4). Part III: Broken Attachments: A Hidden Trauma. A Hidden Trauma: Amnesia. Broken Attachments: The Bereaved Child. The Captive Child: Abandonment. Children of Empire. Homesickness: Eating and Sleeping. Part IV: The Boarding School Body.The Armoured Self: Masculinity, Leathers and the Lash. The Hidden Self: Girls and the Tyranny of the Dinner Table. Puberty in Girls’ Schools: Love and Homosexuality. Boys Sexual Activity and Sexual Abuse: Its Lasting Impact. Boarding School Syndrome: Towards a Theory.


    Joy Schaverien, is a Jungian psychoanalyst, a training analyst of the Society of Analytical Psychology (London), a member of the International Association of Analytical Psychology and Visiting Professor in Art Psychotherapy in Sheffield. Her many publications include Gender, Countertransference and the Erotic Transference (Routledge, 2006).

    "I came across Schaverien’s work several years ago in the British Journal of Psychotherapy, so was pleased she has explored this phenomenon at length. The book is impressively well researched, acknowledging others’ work and suggesting areas for further research. Highly readable… its content is compelling and poignant. I highly recommend it, to substantially raise awareness of this particular kind of trauma and to ensure it is not overlooked." – Roslyn Byfield, Private Practice

    "In this excellent book a convincing case is given for the harmful effects of being sent to any boarding school, resulting in what Schaverien has identified as 'boarding school syndrome'... A strength of this book is the effective use of examples to illustrate, illuminate and make the generalisations meaningful... [The] most significant are case studies from her own practice... As well as an overriding psychodynamic theoretical framework, Schaverien uses various other theories and, in combination, these raise the level of the book from description to deep analysis... Schaverien leaves it to the reader to draw conclusions about what it means when all these emotionally wounded ex-boarders fill so many powerful posts in UK Society... I would guess that ex-boarders are likely to be over-represented amongst a psychotherapist's clients. For a British psychotherapist, that is another reason to read this book."    Dr. Nicholas Houghton, artist and university art education teacher, Contemporary Psychotherapy

    "…Schaverien, a Jungian psychoanalyst, did not go to boarding school: it was as a practitioner that she became intrigued, noting how often boarding school featured in the past of surprising numbers of her patients. That makes her book – an academic work, academically priced, though a gripping read – all the more important…Schaverien brings a clear eye and the experience of 25 years of collecting data to an issue that should concern everyone worried about how children fare in professional care – which, of course, is what boarding school is."  –  Alex Renton, the Observer

    "Therapists of all persuasions have been eagerly awaiting Joy Schaverien’s book on Boarding School Syndrome. The political, cultural and social significance of individuals that attended such schools is obvious, and the book is a deep contribution to an important public conversation. Yet it is also a compassionate clinical approach to the suffering of such ‘privileged’ people of both sexes. This beautifully written, lucid and clinically revelatory book is relevant to work with all clients and patients who have been ‘looked after’ right across the social spectrum – and maybe even to those who have not. A must read work that is going to spark intense discussion within the field – and outside the clinical world as well."  –  Andrew Samuels, Professor of Analytical Psychology, University of Essex

    "In this thoughtful and sensitive analysis, Professor Schaverien skilfully adapts a qualitative clinical research approach to explore the inner world of trauma of the boarding school child, occasioned by too early a rupture of the attachment bond with the mother, and the potentially damaging developmental trajectory brought about by being abandoned into the ‘privileged’ world of boarding school. Schaverien’s exceptional book cogently challenges long held assumptions concerning the value of such an education. She incorporates some of the best of current neurobiological and trauma research to explore the pain and distress of parents as well as child and to offer clinicians valuable insights into the process of healing the minds of adult patients damaged by ‘boarding school syndrome’."  –  Margaret Wilkinson, Training Analyst, The Society of Analytical Psychology, London. Author of Coming into Mind (Routledge, 2006) and Changing Minds in Therapy (Norton, 2010).

    "Besides focusing on individuals, Schaverien discusses the wider sociopolitical repercussions of the permeation of our ruling class by the products of boarding school education... Although many of the stories are from men, women's voices are also included, shedding light on their future roles as wives and mothers...This book is impressively well researched, acknowledging others' work and suggesting areas for further research. Highly readable (a quality not always found in psychoanalytic texts), its content is compelling and poignant. I highly recommend it, to substantially raise awareness of this particular kind of trauma and to ensure it is not overlooked." –  Roslyn Byfield, private practice, UK, Private Practice

    "...this brave, honest, and helpful, though disturbing, bookshould be on the shelves of any psychotherapist who wants to understand and helpheal the psychological perils of boarding."  – Simon Partridge, Attachment: New Directions in Psychotherapy and Relational Psychoanalysis

    "There's an aggrieved generation of angry parents whose bible is Boarding School Syndrome, Joy Schaverien's searing account of the damage done by that system..." - Tibbs Jenkins, Grazia