Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Miscarried Adolescence

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on January 19, 2012


Pubescence is an act of nature. Adolescence is an act of man. It is only in the last century that “children” are given a time to mature into adulthood. That is, they are given an opportunity to “find themselves” or have “identity formation” as Erik Erikson would say. This is a time where the emerging adult must reconcile his wished for self with his actual self. Peter Blos, a psychoanalyst who was interested in adolescence, coined the phrase a “miscarried adolescence” to suggest that this is a vulnerable time of life, such that when the psychological development unfolds poorly, then this can have life-long implications. In other words, one has to master adolescent challenges of finding love and finding work in order to set up a life which yields fulfillment and pleasure.

  Micky, a seventeen year-old female, might be an example of this “miscarried adolescent.” She fought with her parents over which high school to go to. She wanted to go to the local public school. The parents insisted on a private arts-oriented high school. They won. She got mad. She failed out of high school and she started hanging out with the local kids who were going to the public school. They bonded, such that much to the parent’s dismay, Micky showed no interest in college, any college. Mickey did not use drugs, she did not drink, but she did like to spend a lot of time hanging with her friends. It was not clear what they were doing with their time. Mickey is not unhappy, but her parents fear that her life will never get on track. They might be right. Micky has no plans or worries about her future. She has no desire to be forward-thinking. She is stuck, or “fixated,” as analysts like to say in a childlike state of mind. This is not to say there is no hope for Micky, only that she needs to progress through an adolescent period of finding her wants and desires, leading to an independent way to make a living, and meaningful relationships,  so that she can psychologically separate from her parents. She has a long journey ahead. I hope she opts in.

4 Responses to “Miscarried Adolescence”

  1. Danny said

    A string of psychoanalytically oriented posts ! Enjoy reading them.

  2. Shelly said

    Is Micky really dependent on her parents, psychologically? She might be dependent physically, that is, financially, but emotionally not. It is only her parents’ fears that she will not be on track with their expectations for her. At 17, is it realistic to expect Micky to know what she wants out of life? College, long-term plans in relationships and career…all of that requires a maturity that for some, comes a bit later in life. That does not necessarily mean that she is “stuck” in a latenty period “miscarried adolecense.” I also think it has to do with cultural expectations. Once again, in the Middle East, young adults enter the army at 18 and are released at 21 or 22. They travel or work for a year or so, and only then attend college, at age 22+. No-one expects them to know what they want out of life before that time. Respectfully, my two cents worth.

    • Priceless! Yes, Mickey may not need to know her future goals at seventeen, but at sometime in her life, she needs to figure that out. When exactly is that some-time is open for debate, and as you say, culturally dependent. The point of this post is that future-oriented thinking has to set in for a person to develop, and that without a sense of the future, the adolescent is left in an immature position.

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