T his book is about a group of children who live in middle-class homes, have parents who look after their physical well-being, and go to school. Their outward appearances even make them seem fortunate to others less wealthy than they. Yet these children, in a very real sense, are waifs. They have no emotional home, no person who is concerned with their inner being. Obviously, they are children in trouble. Their troubles are manifest in many ways, almost universally as low grades in school or as outright academic failure. Academic failure is recorded with monotonous regularity in the case histories I am about to present. These children have no friends; indeed, they do not get along with anybody. Their behavior is often destructive, always inappropriate; and they are subject to strong mood swings. Their parents see them as doomed to failure and are angry with them. “As a last resort,” and often after many warnings by school officials and sometimes pediatricians, the children finally wind up in psychotherapeutic treatment. But after years of living in the lonely world of misperceptions among people they feel they cannot trust, they view therapy and the therapist as yet another intrusion by the adult, dangerous, incomprehensible, and, to them, unfair world. They have no hope for themselves and are mired in self-justification and angry
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denial. As reported in the American Psychologist, a prestigious and widely read journal, “there is compelling evidence from a variety of sources that affective disorders among children and adolescents are more persistent than hitherto thought and have numerous negative associated features and consequences. . . . school-aged children and adolescents do experience depression” (Kovacs, 1989, p. 209).