The Manic Defenses of the Inattentive or Hyperactive Child: Therapeutic Prospects

Feature section “Child psychoanalysis”
By Laure Westphal

Inattention and/or hyperactivity in children form a syndrome sometimes considered to be neuropsychodevelopmental. Can the psychoanalytic perspective shed light on this matter? This article explores the possible underlying manic defenses at work in hyperactive or inattentive children and examines what may be at the root cause, namely splitting, ambivalence, and a disturbance in the dialectic of the ideal agencies. A clinical scenario will demonstrate how a child can partition ambivalence – ambivalence in his relationship with the Other, on the one hand, and in relation to his semblables, on the other hand. Psychotherapeutic help makes it possible to actualize this splitting between the maternal and paternal figures, through the advantages of the beginning of a triangulation.


  • ambivalence
  • splitting
  • ideal agencies
  • mania
  • inattention and/or hyperactivity
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