ABSTRACT

I have already described some characteristics of the latency child: orientation towards learning, easy to interest, accepting of guidance. This phase of development is described as the “golden age of childhood”, and is accordingly rather pleasant for teachers. Clinical experience in psychoanalysis, however, has shown that almost 70 per cent of all children who receive therapy are in this age group, most of them boys. This apparent contradiction is due on the one hand to symptomatology: learning difficulties, school problems, or the refusal to attend school are symptoms that cannot be denied or concealed. On the other hand, unconscious conflicts originate in the early years of life, when they have either gone unnoticed or been suppressed. As enjoyable as the latency period is for teachers, it is—by the same token—difficult for therapists and psychoanalysts to achieve access to the deeper layers of the child’s personality, since drive impulses and sexual impulses have reached a relative standstill, with inordinately strong defence mechanisms at work.