In psychoanalytical terms latency is defined as a developmental period in which psychosexual maturation marks time – it occurs after the oedipal phase and ends with the beginning of puberty, and is a period of emotional abeyance between the confusion and dramas of childhood and adolescence.
Its meaning has always been connected to the building of defences and repression of the drives that, allied to each other, bring about cognitive development. This does not sound like a ‘lively’ emotional period, nor does it sound ‘colourful’, but just a ‘black and white emotional period’. Another point about the definition of latency which has still not been properly discussed or answered, refers to Freud’s question (Freud, 1925: 37n) as to whether the latency period is an innate universal phenomenon connected to the prolonging of biological immaturity that characterizes human development or whether it is restricted to repressive cultures in which infantile and immature sexual behaviour is subjected in order to be kept under control.
Not accepting this period as a ‘black and white emotional period’ and eager not only to find one possible answer to this late question from Freud but also to come to a better understanding of the psychic development in this period through intercultural comparison we decided to carry out an empirical study of children from different countries, aged 6–11 years, exploring socio-cultural identity, emotional organization, social adaptation, the quality of the child’s identification with parental figures, and the children’s representations of their family relationships – with particular interest in identity formation, including the culturally-shaped quality of identification with parental figures, both maternal and paternal. Our hypotheses regarding cultural differences and the transmission of cultural values during the middle latency period were supported by the cross-cultural research that we read, and as consequence, a number of relevant questions about the child’s emotional development process in latency raised – in particular to an elaboration of psychoanalytic concepts for this period.
Our book, On Latency, is focused on the study of personal and group identity building, its importance in child development at the middle of latency (6–8 years), its features in cultural pattern formation, and further understanding of variability in social adaptation. To this end, in Chapter 1 we introduce the motive for latency and our questions – the origin of the book. In Chapter 2 we provide an overall definition of the latency period, including its importance for social identity development, and its relationship to cultural preservation – in the meaning of being a necessary period in human development. In Chapter 3, we present some classical and central concepts (namely, ‘Oedipus complex’, ‘identification’, ‘narcissism’, ‘ideal ego’, ‘ego ideal’, and ‘superego’), which are not only closely allied to one another but also have a great role in the psychological inner world development of the child at the latency period; we also go chronologically through Freud’s theory and understanding; and discuss some psychoanalytic frameworks that have taken Freud’s work further (for example, Klein, Bion, Rosenfeld, Sandler and others) with the purpose of highlighting the points of agreement with Freud’s theory, despite their differences. Then, in Chapter 4, we introduce group psychology and its key point to explore – how the concepts of ‘ideal ego’, ‘ego ideal’, ‘narcissism’, ‘superego’, and ‘cultural ideal’ are intrinsically connected to one another and, above all, how they relate to cultural identity. Chapter 5, in contrast to the previous chapters, is less theoretical and more empirical: we explain briefly the empirical research study including methodology, results, and hypotheses, and discuss how our data can be interpreted in order to produce explanations for our questions. In Chapter 6, based on the link between our empirical data and the different perspectives (theoretical concepts) elaborated on in the previous chapters, we present our ideas and new understanding of some aspects of latency. We propose a new understanding of the Oedipus complex resolution, and, moreover, introduce two new concepts: cultural ideal, defined as an agency that replaces the ego ideal, and narcissistic impulse reminiscence, an unconscious reminiscence of the ‘dual orientation of narcissism’ (primitive ego function) – one orientation towards achieving individuality and the other towards fusion. We finish by addressing the limitations of the study and providing a conclusion.
The writing process is quite similar to the development of the child. At the beginning, like a baby, there are not many words to express thoughts, symbolization is still poor, and ‘fantastic ideas’ invade one’s mind. Slowly, one can give names to some thoughts and put them together into phrases – the child is able to ‘talk’. At this creative moment the thoughts turn into wings and it is possible to fly with them. But like a child that is learning to walk and will fall down; a time will come, when it is necessary to land on the ground. Whatever happens, whenever it takes, one should not give up the idea of writing, the idea of sharing their thoughts. After all the reader’s thoughts, criticisms and ideas will turn into new flights. So please give us the possibility to fly again with your wings. We would be delighted to receive thoughts from our readers and enter into a discussion of the ideas proposed in this book.
This book is currently on special offer at £9.99 from Karnac Books website (incl. free worldwide delivery)