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. 

chapter 1|14 pages

Boarding School Syndrome

An introduction

part I|32 pages


chapter 2|15 pages

Man and boy

A brief history of boarding schools

chapter 3|15 pages

All girls together

A brief history of boarding schools

part II|64 pages

Exile and healing

chapter 4|11 pages

Developmental trauma (case study part 1)

chapter 5|20 pages

Mapping the psyche (case study part 2)

chapter 7|17 pages

The return

Trauma and the developing brain (case study part 4)

part III|66 pages

Broken attachments

chapter 8|12 pages

A hidden trauma


chapter 9|12 pages

Broken attachments

The bereaved child

chapter 10|14 pages

The captive child


chapter 11|13 pages

Children of Empire

chapter 12|13 pages


Eating and sleeping

part IV|56 pages

The boarding school body

chapter 13|13 pages

The armoured self

Masculinity, leathers and the lash

chapter 14|13 pages

The hidden self

Girls and the tyranny of the dinner table

chapter 15|10 pages

Puberty in girls’ schools

Love and homosexuality

chapter 16|12 pages

Boys’ sexual activity and sexual abuse

Its lasting impact

chapter 17|6 pages

Boarding School Syndrome

Towards a theory