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A Psychologist's Thoughts on Clinical Practice, Behavior, and Life

Why Some Children Lack Psychological “Sturdiness”

Parents know that infants vary greatly in their “sturdiness,” their ability to tolerate separation from them. Children with extreme responses to separation are buffeted by panic after instances of parental “abandonment” that is manageable for less vulnerable youngsters.
Parental unavailability is devastating for them, promoting clinginess and a desperate need to ensure parental proximity. When this happens, parent over-involvement may reflect an adaptation to their child’s fragility rather than the parent’s inability to tolerate the child’s increased independence.
As these children grow older, anxiously attached youngsters carry a self-image of being helpless and incompetent. They experience others as being indifferent or withholding.
The ensuing rage can turn into disruptive, self-destructive behavior. Inflicting pain on oneself and causing misery to others can ensure response from otherwise exhausted or frustrated parents.
Thus dramatic behavior, including outwardly and inwardly directed destructiveness, may become their norm of relating. It also represents the child’s protest against perceived neglect and an unconscious search for confirmation of their “badness.”
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