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Habitual failure: A childhood adaptation to the threat of abandonment


This paper attributes habitual failure to an early childhood adaptation: The immature, dependent child, making repeated unsuccessful attempts to satisfy unrealistic or pathological parental demands, fears that its inadequacies will result in abandonment by the parents. Repeated cycles of attempted compliance and failure are internalized and become a life pattern. A case history illustrates these dynamics and their treatment.

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Kahn, E. Habitual failure: A childhood adaptation to the threat of abandonment. Clin Soc Work J 17, 50–63 (1989).

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  • Early Childhood
  • Case History
  • Repeated Cycle
  • Unsuccessful Attempt
  • Dependent Child