1st Edition

Middle-Class Waifs
The Psychodynamic Treatment of Affectively Disturbed Children

ISBN 9781138881532
Published January 23, 2019 by Routledge
280 Pages

USD $29.95

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Book Description

In this volume, a well-known psychoanalyst, dance therapist, and educational consultant chronicles her clinical work with deeply troubled children who fall between the cracks of our diagnostic and educational systems. These children, who frequently turn out to have been sexually or punitively abused, have no real emotional home despite the fact that they live in materially comfortable circumstances. In spite of their apparent brightness and precocity, they do not thrive in the classroom, where their disruptive behavior, tendency to act out, and fragmented learning bring them to the attention of teachers, counselors, and school psychologists. Standard diagnoses do not explain their plight; such children are neither retarded nor learning disabled nor neurotic.

Through poignant case studies, Siegel reviews the developmental circumstances that bring these middle-class waifs to a critical impasse with both their parents and the educational establishment. Time and again she discovers that the children's expectable developmental course has been derailed by their accommodation to parental abuse and deformed parental expectations. Psychodynamic treatment invariably uncovers the maladaptive solutions that fueled the children's behavioral and learning disturbances.

This volume speaks to a broad clinical and non-clinical readership: psychoanalytic clinicians; psychologists; counselors; social workers; art, dance, and music therapists; special education teachers; child therapists; and child care workers. They will all join in admiration of Siegel's treatment approach which focuses on what is healthy in deeply traumatized children and, in so doing, helps debunk the myth of the untreatable child.

Table of Contents

- But I Don't Want to Be Me: Children Who Don't Accept Their Gender and Its Functions.
- I'm Really Really Scared and I Feel So Bad: Children Who Have Been Exposed to Adult Sex Play.
- I Want to Kick the World to Pieces: Children Who Have Been Beaten.
- I Don't Understand Anything at All: Children Who Have Suffered Sexual Abuse. - I'd Really Like to Kill My Mom and Dad: Children Who Live Behind an Emotional Mask.
- Some Theoretical and Treatment Considerations: Mental Representation 
- The Infant as Active Participant in the Care Giver-Child Dyad.

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Elaine V. Siegel, Ph.D., is Supervising and Training Analyst at the New York Center for Psychoanalytic Training.  A registered dance therapist, she served for 14 years as director of the motor development unit at Suffolk Child Development Center, a research facility of the State University of New York at Stony Brook.  Dr. Siegel maintains a private practice in Long Island and lectures widely both in the United States and Europe.  She is the author of Female Sexuality: Choice Without Volition (Analytic Press, 1988).


"This book of case histories, written by a gifted and dedicated child therapist, is a most welcome and needed addition to the literature.  It is reassuring and refreshing to hear that a humane environment enhances learning in children and that overemphasis on specialized remedial help can make us forget that children are whole human beings with a primary need to be understood."

- Anni Bergman, Ph.D., Professor Clinical Psychology, CUNY