Clinical Perspective

Working with a child's envy in the transference

  • Renate Gericke Clinical Psychologist, Department of Neurosciences, Psychiatry Division, University of the Witwatersrand, 7 York Road, Parktown 2193, South Africa, and Child and Family Unit, 13 Joubert Street Ext., Parktown, Gauteng, South Africa


In literature, envy has long been written of as one of the seven cardinal sins. In biblical mythology, envy as a consequence of vanity can be understood to be the reason for archangel Lucifer's fall from a state of heavenly grace and unionship. Freud was the first psychoanalytic theorist to introduce the idea of envy, albeit through his controversial concept of penis envy. Karl Abrahams and Melanie Klein later placed envy at the crucial developing stages of the relationship between primary caregiver and infant. Klein boldly identified envy as a primary constitutional emotion. However, the presence and difficulties of envy in clinical work remain largely underreported, more so in work with children. This paper asks whether an attachment base can be secure if envy is dominant. The analysis of a nine-year-old girl (‘Kirsten') and her envious transference with her therapist will be examined, to explore the relationship between envy and attachment security. While contemporary research focuses on developing attachment theory in relation to specific psychiatric conditions, this paper will discuss affect as the binding link or disruptive force between self and object representations, that then determine attachment security.

Journal of Child and Adolescent Mental Health 2006, 18(2): 73–78

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1728-0591
print ISSN: 1728-0583