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The life scripts and object relations of adolescents in families and in residential substitute care.

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The aim of this research was to compare the quality of parent- child relationships and child development in a group of 20 adolescents (aged 13-17) who were raised in intact families of origin (Family Group: N1 = 20, x age = 15.65 years, 10 males and 10 females) with a group of 20 adolescents who had been placed in residential substitute care either as children or adolescents (Residential Substitute Care Group: N2 = 20, x age = 16.25 years, 10 males and 10 females). The group of residential substitute care subjects was subdivided by age at placement into two subgroups of ten subjects, each with five males and five females. The Child Placement Subgroup (n1 = 10, x age at placement = 4 years) contained adolescents placed during childhood, the cut-off age for inclusion in the subgroup being six years of age. The Adolescent Placement Subgroup (n2 = 10, x age at placement = 14.25 years) comprised subjects placed between the ages of 12 and 16 years. Each subject was assessed using a 52 item Ego State Inventory (McCarley, 1975) which yields five measures of ego states (Punitive Parent, Nurturing Parent, Adult, Rebellious Child, Adaptive Child). Each subject was interviewed using a Brief Questionnaire for background information and a 20 question version of the Life Script Questionnaire. Videotaped interviews were analyzed for the presence of parent messages given by mothers and fathers. Life scripts were descriptively analyzed for: decisions about life made by subjects; their episcripts; affective, cognitive and behavioural components of racket systems; and identifications, characteristics and themes apparent in their fantasy systems denoted by choices of favourite modern myths (nursery rhymes, fairy tales, story books, and TV programs). Statistical analysis of ego state scores of the Family Group and Residential Substitute Care Group confirms the hypothesis that the two research groups would differ significantly. Life script analysis also confirmed an hypothesized qualitative difference between these two groups. The Child Placement Subgroup and Adolescent Placement Subgroup did not, however, significantly statistically differ from each other in terms of ego state measures. In terms of the nature and frequency of parent messages there is a qualitative difference between the life scripts of Family Group and Residential Substitute Care subjects. Decisions about life, the racket system and fantasy systems of Family Group and Residential Substitute Care Group subjects also indicate qualitative differences. Interpretations of the data in terms of Transactional Analysis (TA) theory and within the object relations development frameworks of Winnicott and Mahler suggest differences between the Family Group and Residential Substitute Care Group in terms of the nature and quality of the parent-child relationship and child development. An object relations developmental retrospective for Family Group and Residential Substitute Care Group subjects suggests a greater capacity for healthier object relating in the former group than the latter group. Additionally, an object relations developmental retrospective comparing Child Placement with Adolescent Placement subjects suggests parent-child relationships and child development within the former subgroup to be of less optimal quality than the latter group. Analysis of parent messages issued by significant other parent figures to Residential Substitute Care subjects denote poor quality substitute- parent child relationships and raise concern about the quality and validity of 'substitute care' services. Two case studies of Residential Substitute Care group subjects (Marilyn and Colin) are provided. The data are discussed in relation to issues and trends in residential substitute care, with a view to making suggestions and recommendations designed to enhance substitute care services in South Africa. The research evaluates the use of TA as a methodology suited to exposing qualitative differences between small sample groups and its utility, interfacing with Winnicott's and Mahler's frameworks, in inferring an object relations developmental retrospective.


Thesis (M.A.)-University of Natal, 1988.


Parent and child., Adolescent psychology., Object relations (psychoanalysis), Theses--Psychology.