The Psychological Assessment of Abused and Traumatized Children

By Francis D. Kelly | Go to book overview

8
Object Representations of Abusive
and Maltreating Parents: A Tale
of Two Women

The occasion of becoming a parent suddenly unleashes a torrent of conscious and unconscious cognitive-affective memories, associations, and representations of self and other: For better or worse, like old movies, these evoke pleasant or noxious remembrances; they beckon, remind, delight, perplex, perhaps repel, and in the extreme, terrorize once again. The experience of becoming a parent evokes in all of us dim and often long dormant revisitings with childhood memories of self and other--thoughts and mental representations of one's parents, parent, or surrogates. These complex schemata now become activated and called on to guide and direct self in a new role, that of the other (i.e., parent). For the new parent who enjoyed a relatively healthy and stable connection with parental objects, the beacon or inner representations provide direction that urges and encourages the necessary holding, nurturance, containment, and parenting that enables the child to progressively move along in his or her developmental trek.

Yet, for many children--those abused and maltreated--the journey is often quite encumbered and compromised from the outset. The birth of the child, born to abusive and maltreating parents, often finds him or her revisiting a very different terrain than that experienced by parents previously referenced. The parents of abused and maltreated children have often been abused--not always--but more often than not; this is a sad reality and the experience of becoming a parent often evokes an array of unpleasant and frightening memories, associations, and dissociated material that suddenly comes to the foreground. Instead of providing a beacon or informative guiding light wherein the new parent or parents appreciate the uniqueness of the situation and welcome the opportunity to create a special crucible

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