Boarding School Syndrome: The Psychological Trauma of the ‘Privileged’ Child
Published by Routledge in June 2015
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This book is an analysis of the trauma of the “privileged” child sent to boarding school at a young age. Innovative and challenging it offers a new understanding of a long-established British and colonial tradition. Richly illustrated with pictures and the narratives of adult ex-boarders it shines a psychological light on this time-honoured practice. Readable and accessible, it demonstrates how some forms of enduring distress may be traced back to the early losses of home and family.
It has long been known that boarding schools have a brutal history and yet they continued with beatings and cruelty into the late 20th century. Children in boarding school grow up in institutional care and looked after by adults who do not love them. This may cause problems with intimacy in later life. The stories of ex-boarders in psychotherapy reveal the details of this suffering. At a formative time children left in school lose everything familiar and this may be traumatic, creating a psychological split between the boarding school self and the home self. As a result children may experience dissociation, amnesia and bereavement. Some view their school as a form of captivity; others are exposed to physical and sexual abuse.
This cutting-edge book offers a theory on which the psychotherapeutic treatment of ex-boarders may build. Boarding School Syndrome is a new term developed after many years of clinical research. Informed and substantiated by attachment and child development theories, it demonstrates how boarding school may damage those it also rewards. This book breaks new ground in systematically analysing this trauma and in addressing the impact on women, as well as men. It will be essential reading for anyone interested in the wider implications of this tradition. It offers a theoretical frame for psychotherapists working with ex-boarders and it will enlighten ex-boarders, as well as those who live with them.