Alumni Group Round Table Discussion Series

August 14, 2020 11:30 am to 1:00 pm

Video Session

Haunted: The Lifelong Legacy of the Replacement Child


Cecilia Samish, LCSW

The writer known as Stendhal and artists Vincent Van Gogh and Salvador Dali have been poignantly described as replacement children. In a classic paper by Cain and Cain published in 1964, the replacement child was defined as one conceived to take the place of a child who died. While this alone may not be problematic for the substitute child, the replacement child syndrome occurs when the bereaved parents avoid mourning the deceased child, instead maintain a narcissistic overinvestment in that child, and subsequently project idealized expectations for the dead child onto the replacement child. Since replacement children are treated more as embodiments of a memory than persons in their own right, they are prone to develop identity disturbances. Reid (1992) and Sabbadini (1988) provided detailed case examples from the treatments of a child and adult, respectively. Anisfeld and Richards (2000) extended the replacement concept to adoption and historical situations, and Donoghue (2017) provided a personal memoir and a biographical example from a graphic novel. (It is suggested that child clinicians read the articles by Cain and Cain, Reid, and Anisfeld and Richards. Adult clinicians should read the articles by Sabbadini, Anisfeld and Richards, and Donoghue.)

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