100 Years of Adolescence and its Prehistory From Cave to Computer

Morris Stambler, MD



In an attempt to understand the impact of our transition into the digital era, this paper looks at adolescence across the sweep of human history, reviewing psychoanalytic conceptions of adolescent development with a particular focus on the end of adolescence. Turning to paleobiology, adolescence and early childhood are phases unique to modern humans, allowing the accumulation of knowledge and culture and a form of cognition, autonoesis. As human society becomes increasingly complex, the length of time before achieving adulthood has increased. The digital revolution has brought new stresses and strains extending this even further. Arnett has proposed that another phase, emerging adulthood, be introduced between adolescence and early adulthood. This concept and dynamic systems theory are both reviewed. This paper suggests that notions of psychic structure are in need of revision as they are overly linear and based on antiquated scientific metaphor. These developments have implications for clinical practice with adolescents, emerging adults, and their parents, and might require adjustments to new ways of engaging with the broader issues of mental health.

Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 70/1: 22-39, March 2017.

Link to Online Publication (fullext can be downloaded in, or requested from, the library).



Previous Posts:

Rita K. Teusch, PhD (2017). More Courtship Letters of Freud and Martha Bernays. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 65/1: 111-125.

John C. Foehl, PhD (2016). Hedgehogs at the Gate: A Review of Metaphor and Fields: Common Ground, Common Language and the Future of Psychoanalysis edited by S. Montana Katz. New York, NY: Routledge, 2013. 244 pp. Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 52/3: 434–456.

Alfred S. Margulies, MD (2016). Avatars of Desire and the Question of Presence: Virtual and Transitional Spaces Meet their Liminal Edge – from Pygmalion to Spike Jonze’s Her, and BeyondInternational Journal of Psychoanalysis, 97/6: 1697–1708.

Lawrence J. Brown, PhD. (2016). The Capacity to Tell a Joke: Reflections from Work with Asperger Children. International Journal of Psychoanalysis. 97/6:1609–1625.

Nancy Chodorow, PhD. Twentieth-Century Psychoanalysis. In The Routledge Handbook of Psychoanalysis in the Social Sciences and Humanities edited by Anthony Elliott and Jeffrey Prager. Routledge 2016, chapter 11, p. 185-205.

Axel Hoffer, MD & Dan Buie, MD. (2016). Helplessness and the Analyst’s War against Feeling it. American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 76/1:1-17.

Fred Busch, PhD. (2016). The Search for Psychic TruthPsychoanalytic Quarterly, 85/2: 339-360.

Daniel Jacobs, MD. (2016). Clinical supervision of psychoanalytic psychotherapy. Edited by Jill Savege Scharff. London: Karnac Books, 2014, xvi + 176 pp., $39.95 paperback. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 64/2:431-437.

Judy L. Kantrowitz, PhD (2016). Appreciation of the Importance of the Patient–Analyst “Match”. Psychiatry, 79:1, 23-28.

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