Theory and Practice of Psychoanalysis in Middle Childhood (6-12 years)

Child Psychoanalytic Training (CPT)
2022-23, 1st Trimester — Fridays, 10:15-11:45am
Flaviane Ferreira, MD LMHC


For this class we will follow the book Latency: The Golden Age of Childhood by Austrian child psychoanalyst Gertraud Diem-Wille. In this book, the author offers a contemporary psychoanalytic developmental theory according to Freud, Klein, Winnicott and Bion.

I am also including optional readings that will offer additional points of view. We may or may not read and discuss them depending on the class interest.

The book concerns the child’s emotional and cognitive development during the period of latency. It constitutes a bridge between the first stormy years of child development and adolescence. The conflicts and libidinous wishes of early childhood are relegated to the background and become latent: in general, an emotional and physical stabilization occurs. The child is attempting to find its place in the world. Accordingly, its primary interest is no longer in itself or its parents, but in the outside world. This is particularly manifested in forms of play typical for this age range, strongly influenced by imitation of the adult world and reality-oriented. At the same time, the body is explored (and its awareness is strengthened through numerous games involving movement, skill and competition). In all societies, this period is when school begins.

The latency development includes new physical and intellectual capabilities as well as the development of new ways to deal with problems of social hierarchy; gradually, tolerance of tensions and a stabilization of identity are developed as well. The acquirement of knowledge and new forms of independence are at the forefront, leading Freud to speak of the “golden age” of childhood. Due to increased emotional defenses, feelings are now shown less directly. The reaction-formation and sublimation are the central defensive mechanisms of latency.

However, if a regression into the behavior of early childhood occurs—bound to be embarrassing to the child who is now more oriented to the outside world—a massive form of emotional denial as a defense mechanism can occur.

When development is disturbed through massive inner conflicts, earlier disturbances re-emerge that are manifested in learning problems, obvious behavioral problems, temper tantrums, and tendencies towards withdrawal or violence. Numerous examples and scenes from family life and school supply a dynamic picture of psychological latency. The detailed case studies from child psychoanalysis afford insight into psychoanalytic techniques with children. The method of psychoanalytic observation allows us emotional empathy with what occurs in therapy; both the feelings of the children and of the therapist can thus be experienced and understood.

A copy of the book will be provided for each student.

Learning Objectives

As a result of taking this course, the clinical associates will be able to:

  1. Describe the features of the latency phase development: the significance of moral, social, emotional, cognitive, behavioral, and biological development between the ages of 6–12 years
  2. Identify the central defensive mechanisms of latency: reaction-formation and sublimation
  3. Understand the concepts of independence and wishes for autonomy and social integration
  4. Understand the development of the capacity to symbolize and its crucial importance to the child’s interest in learning
  5. Explorer techniques of child analysis in the latency period. Identify common symptomatology and the challenges for analysis in this age

November 4, 2022

[44 pages]

We will discuss:

  • Between 6-12 years: period of emotional and physical stabilization.
  • Transitional space between family and the social world of school: the experience of an independent ego, interest in the outside world, orientation towards learning.
  • Sublimation and reaction-formation defense mechanisms.
  • Denial: defense against shame.
  • Psychosexual Sexual abuse and the failure to speak to it.

Diem-Wille, G. (2015). Latency: The Golden Age of Childhood, pp1-44.

Optional Reading

Etchegoyen, A. (1993). Latency - a Reappraisal. IJP, 74:347-357.

Bornstein, B. (1951). On Latency. Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 6:279-285.

November 11, 2022

[38 pages]

We will discuss:

  • Beginning school: the development of the capacity to think and learn.
  • Children with special education needs
  • The issue of abused/neglected children: emotional, physical and social delays.

Diem-Wille, G. (2015). Latency: The Golden Age of Childhood, pp44-81.

Optional Reading

Gilbert, R.; Widom, C.; Browne, K.; Fergunsson, D. Webb, E; and Jason, S. (2008). Burden and consequences of child maltreatment in high-income countries. The Lancet 373(9657), pp68-81.

Novick, J. & Novick, K.K. (2020). Why Won’t They Learn: Unconscious Underpinnings of Corporal Punishment. Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 73:62-72.

November 18, 2022

[39 pages]

We will discuss:

  • Forms of thought organization: the development of symbols and symbolic communication.
  • Play: the games of latency children are frequently reality-oriented; fantasies are less connected to motor activity.
  • Clinical case: application of psychoanalytic understanding, techniques and ways of interpretation.

Diem-Wille, G. (2015). Latency: The Golden Age of Childhood, pp81-119.

Optional Reading

Donnellan, G.J. (1980). Conceptual models and symbol formation during the latency period. Psychoanalytic Review, 67:291-312.

Bram, D. (2019). The Subjective Impact of Separation and Divorce on a Latency-aged Child and his Analysis. Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 72:24-32.

December 9, 2022

[22 pages]

We will discuss:

  • Clinical case: application of psychoanalytic understanding, techniques and ways of interpretation.
  • Clinical Associates encouraged to bring a vignette of clinical material or personal observation of latency children.
  • Going deeper: choose a topic and one optional article for the last class.

Diem-Wille, G. (2015). Latency: The Golden Age of Childhood, pp119-140.

Optional Reading

Winnicott, D. W. (1965) Child Analysis in the Latency Period (1958). The Maturational Processes and the Facilitating Environment: Studies in the Theory of Emotional Development 64:115-123

December 16, 2022

[20 pages]

Final Considerations:

  • The importance of reading: when children read by themselves.
  • Further discussion of one optional article.
  • Summary of latency phase.

Diem-Wille, G. (2015). Latency: The Golden Age of Childhood, pp141-160.