Abandonment (Encyclopedia of Children's Health)
Abandonment is a legal term describing the failure of a non-custodial parent to provide support to his or her children according to the terms approved by a court of law. In common use, abandonment refers to the desertion of a child by a parent.
Legal abandonment is an persistent issue that has received increasing attention since the 1970s. It refers to non-custodial parents who do not fulfill court-ordered financial responsibilities to their children, regardless of their involvement in their children's lives in other ways. Lack of such support is blamed for substantial poverty among single-parent families.
In 2002 it was estimated that up to 30 percent (19.8 million) of children in the United States, representing 11.9 million families, lived in single-parent households. While the number of single mothers has remained constant in recent years at 9.9 million, the number of single fathers has grown from 1.7 million in 1995 to 2 million in 2002, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. In 2002, some 19.8 million children lived with one parent. Of these, 16.5 million lived with their mother and 3.3 million with their father.
Fewer than half of single-parent children under the...
(The entire section is 1834 words.)
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Abandonment (West's Encyclopedia of American Law)
The surrender, relinquishment, disclaimer, or cession of property or of rights. Voluntary relinquishment of all right, title, claim, and possession, with the intention of not reclaiming it.
The giving up of a thing absolutely, without reference to any particular person or purpose. For example, vacating property with the intention of not returning, so that it may be appropriated by the next comer or finder. The voluntary relinquishment of possession of a thing by its owner with the intention of terminating ownership, but without vesting it in any other person. The relinquishing of all title, possession, or claim, or a virtual, intentional throwing away of property.
Term includes both the intention to abandon and the external act by which the intention is carried into effect. In determining whether someone has abandoned property or rights, the intention is the first and paramount object of inquiry, for there can be no abandonment without the intention to abandon.
Abandonment differs from surrender in that surrender requires an agreement, and also from FORFEITURE, in that forfeiture may be against the intention of the party alleged to have forfeited.
In the case of children, abandonment is the willful forsaking or forgoing of parental duties. Desertion as a legal...
(The entire section is 1013 words.)
Abandonment (International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis)
Strictly speaking, the notion of abandonment is not a psychoanalytic concept. It was initially applied in situations where very young children were deprived of care, education, and affective support, and were neglected by or separated prematurely from their maternal environment, with no reference to the causes of this deprivation. From a purely descriptive point of view, pediatricians and psychologists taking an interest in child development have long recognized the somatic and psychic effects of such states of deprivation.
The notion is nevertheless appropriately included in a dictionary of psychoanalysis, for two reasons. Firstly, the concept of abandonment is not applied solely to children, but also to adults who experience the feeling of abandonment, separation, or bereavement, whether real or imaginary. Secondly, certain psychoanalysts very quickly developed an interest in the mental disorders and disturbances observed in the emotional development of children subjected to such traumatic experiences, as well as the possible pathogenic role of the family environment. Abandonment raises the fundamental problem of object loss and renunciation of the love object, or the work of mourning. It also calls into question the metapsychological status of anxiety.
In a primary and passive sense, abandonment refers to the experience of a state that is imposed by loss or separation: being or feeling abandoned. In a secondary and active sense, the complement of the previous one, it applies to the psychic process that leads a person to deny the cathected object, separate from it, and abandon it.
Published in 1950, Germaine Guex's La Névrose d'abandon (Abandonment neurosis) contributed considerably to propagating the notions of the abandonment complex and the abandonment-type personality. Although now dated, this work nevertheless had the virtue of stressing the influence of disturbances and conflicts occurring during pre-oedipal phases of psychic development in the causation of certain forms of neurotic character disorders and depression, which Guex related to affective frustration experienced during childhood, essentially in relation to the mother. Subjects thus frustrated turn out to be both affectively insatiable and extremely dependent on others, so that every separation is a major crisis for them. Other more recent writers, particularly Otto Kernberg and Heinz Kohut, have studied narcissistic personality disorders and borderline states between neurosis and psychosis from a similar perspective. They stress the difficulties that arise when the analytic treatment of these patients reproduces their affective dependence in the transference, thus rendering the analysis interminable.
Among clinical work by child psychoanalysts we have to bear in mind Anna Freud's and Dorothy Burlingham's observations of young children who were separated from their families during World War II, as well as René Spitz's work on the severe consequences of hospitalism and anaclitic depression in infants. John Bowlby's study of children's mourning led to attachment theory, which is amply developed in a book that is both a comprehensive survey and a reference, although his views are sometimes closer to psychobiology and behaviorism than to psychoanalysis.
Abandonment is also at the root of a certain number of asocial or delinquent behaviors linked to educational deprivation and indicating a defect in the organization of the ego and the superego. On this subject Donald Winnicott referred to the "antisocial tendency" as an alarm signal that is sounded by distressed children. These problems had already attracted the attention of some of Freud's collaborators in the period between the two World Wars. In Austria in the 1920s August Aichhorn initiated an educational experience in the light of analytic practice and aimed at children who were victims of exclusion. His book Verwahrloste Jungend (1925) (Wayward Youth, 1935), prefaced by Freud, recounts this experiment, which still retains much of its pertinence.
Psychoanalysis must never underestimate the importance of objective reality either in theory or practice, but it owes it to itself to remain especially attentive to the manifestations of unconscious psychic reality, to the activity of the representations and fantasies that constitute it, and to its verbal and affective modes of expression in conscious life. From this point of view, abandonment or separation anxiety is an inevitable condition of existence that appears very early on in the course of psychic development and whose ongoing influence varies from one individual to the other, depending on the situations they encounter. In his second theory of anxiety, as outlined in Inhibitions, Symptoms, and Anxiety (1926d ), Freud shows that for the ego, the emergence of this affect takes on the value of a danger signal, a danger that may be real or imaginary, but whose prototype is the threat of castration linked to the development of the Oedipus complex. Here the ego feels threatened with the loss of the love object or the loss of the love of the object.
According to Freud, this fundamental anxiety expresses the original state of distress (Hilflosigkeit, literally: helplessness) linked to the prematurity of an individual at the start of life, which renders him or her completely dependent on another for the satisfaction of both vital and affective needs. The resulting need to feel loved will never cease throughout life. This need seems to be more narcissistic than object related because through it is expressed a nostalgic desire that precedes any differentiated object relationship: the desire to recover, in a fantasied fusion with the mother, a state of internal well-being and complete satisfaction, protected from the outside world, free of all conflict, of all ambivalence and all splitting. For Melanie Klein, the internal feeling of loneliness is born out of the inevitable dissatisfaction of this aspiration for an impossible narcissistic completeness, one that takes the form of a definitively unattainable ideal. However, the feeling of being alone can also be a source of satisfaction for the child, marking the acquisition, through games for example, of a certain degree of autonomy in relation to the presence of the mother. Donald Winnicott stressed this capacity to be alone in the presence of the mother, which he considered to be a decisive stage in the evolution of the child.
Over and above the shock it produces, object loss initiates a process of intrapsychic work, which Freud identified as the work of mourning and which results, in the best cases, in renunciation of the lost object. But the success of this long and painful process is quite variable, depending on the individual, the degree of maturation of the psychical apparatus, and the solidity of the narcissistic organization. Bereavement or loss often leave indelible traces on the ego, a sense of being abandoned is only one of many aspects, since mourning is clinically multifaceted. In his 1915 essay, Mourning and Melancholia (1916-17g ), Freud compares two responses, in order to better highlight their differences in relation to the loss of the object and the ambivalence of the ego with respect to it. In melancholia, the lost object is neither conscious nor real: it is a part of the ego, unconsciously identified with the lost object, which becomes the target for guilt feelings and self-accusing projections. "The shadow of the object fell upon the ego," wrote Freud (p. 249). But it must be added that all mourning, all loss, all separation, affects the ego at its narcissistic base: being separated from the object is also being deprived of a part of one's self (Rosolato, 1975).
Logically, we should differentiate more between the work of mourning (with the tragic dimension given by the death of the object), and the work of separation (which brings into play the presence, whether real or imaginary, of a third party separator and does not mobilize the same affects as mourning). Additionally, separation, with all the intrapsychic conflicts it gives rise to, is a normal process that leads to the individuation and autonomy of the child. It is the father, in this case, or the authority replacing him, who is the third party separator. Lastly, the problem of separation and abandonment is not merely a question of vicissitudes in the primary relation with the mother. Freud insisted on the crucial importance of the need to be protected by the father, and on the intensity of the feeling of nostalgia that is directed toward him in his absence. He considered the identification with the prehistoric father as a "direct and immediate identification" that "takes place earlier than any object-cathexis" (1923b, p. 31). Clinical experience of depression both in adults and children confirms the importance of the feeling of being abandoned by the father, and of the absence of the father in the mother's desire.
See also: Aichhorn, August; Guex, Germaine; Helplessness; Hospitalism; Spitz, René Arpad.
Aichhorn, August. (1935). Wayward youth. New York: The Viking Press.
Bowlby, John. (1969). Attachment and loss. London: Hogarth.
Freud, Sigmund. (1916-17g ). Mourning and melancholia. SE, 14: 237-258.
(1923b). The ego and the id. SE, 19: 1-66.
(1926d ). Inhibitions, symptoms and anxiety. SE, 20: 75-172.
Guex, Germaine. (1950). La Névrose d'abandon: le syndrome d'abandon. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.
Klein, Melanie. (1959). On the sense of loneliness. In her Envy and Gratitude and Other Works, 1946-1963. New York: The Free Press.
Rosolato, Guy. (1975). L'axe narcissique des depressions. La Relation d'inconnu. Paris: Gallimard.
Pollock, George H. (1988). Notes on abandonment, loss, and vulnerability. Annual of Psychoanalysis, 16, 341-370.