CRITICAL REFLECTION 1
Criminologyand Social Theory
In 1956, D. W. Winnicott wrote an enlightening paper on “TheAntisocial Tendency.” Notably, the author made several claims inhis masterpiece. Antisocial tendency is always linked to aspects ofdeprivation. In this regard, antisocial acts such as bedwetting andstealing are viewed as environmental failures when the perpetratorexperiences relative dependence. Winnicott claimed that theantisocial tendency indicated certain failures in an infant.Favorable conditions during the period of absolute dependence werelost. The occurrence of the antisocial act was a strong indicationthat the person would rediscover the pleasurable experience thatoccurred before the immediate loss.
Furthermore, Winnicott argues that the antisocial tendency could notbe used as a diagnosis for both children and adults. The author notesthe similarity between delinquency and the antisocial tendency. Inparticular, both issues stemmed from deprivation during infancy.Winnicott also provided recommendations that could be used during thetreatment of deprivation. The author used various illustrations toshow how the antisocial tendency can be detected in a person with animmense urge to steal. The concept can also be discerned in anindividual who performs extreme acts of defiance. In the firstexample, the author’s teenage patient is enrolled into an approvedschool due to the failure of psychotherapy. In the secondillustration, Winnicott advises a female friend how to help her son,who is guilty of stealing (Winnicott, 1956, p.308). Consequently, theauthor argues that both parents and their children can be helpedduring the early stages of deprivation.
In addition, Winnicott argues that therapeutic interventions mustconsider the effects of unconscious communication. The author claimsthat a deprived child was more hopeful than a child who manifestedgood behavior. Winnicott stated that the latter child was essentiallydefeated and hopeless (Winnicott, 1956, p. 309). However, thispremise was quite misleading since the conclusion was based on falseclaims. In fact, children who were brought up in loving familiesdisplayed fewer acts of aggression and disillusionment. Caringparents could comfort their children and show them undividedattention such that the latter would manifest socially-acceptableconduct. Therefore, it was wrong to assume that a child with goodbehavior was irredeemable.
Besides, Winnicott emphasized the importance of viewing an antisocialact as an expression of deep-seated need. Adults had to understandsuch facts before reacting with anger and hatred. Intolerance ormismanagement prevented children from overcoming antisocialtendencies. Deprivation referred to a person with an unconsciousmemory of experiencing love while privation applied where a childsuffered perpetual bad treatment. Winnicott used these definitions toshow the failures due to the person’s environment. The extent ofdeprivation was also dependent on the type of upbringing.
Nevertheless, Winnicott made several assumptions that could weakenthe strength of his inference. The author labeled all antisocial actsas expressions of a person’s fundamental needs. In this regard,Winnicott assumed that well-adjusted children were incapable ofperforming antisocial acts. He also misrepresented parenting as ashow of constant support and approval. In some cases, parents andguardians were required to discipline their children. Erroneous formsof conduct would hardly warrant the seal of parental approval.Parents could not fulfill all the wishes and desires of theirchildren as reflective of master-slave relationships. Nonetheless,denial of some requests could not be adjudged as deprivation.
Winnicott relies on the principle of cause and effect to accentuatehis analysis. Such reasoning is misleading since some outcomes couldnot be readily attributable to certain circumstances. For instance, awealthy man could provide a hefty inheritance that allows his childto reap unprecedented success. On the other hand, a deprived childcould take advantage of financial circumstances to excel. It wasequally likely that a pampered child could squander his or herinheritance and experience bankruptcy. Persons from poor backgroundsmay be doomed due to lack of exposure and inexistent academicqualifications. Therefore, the author’s assumptions were based onmisleading principles.
The author’s arguments would create chaos since many people woulduse their upbringing as an excuse for antisocial behaviors.Outstanding contradictions occur in the application of theanti-social tendency. Winnicott restricted the effects of antisocialacts to infants and children. Notwithstanding, many adults manifestedcertain behaviors due to childhood experiences. Delinquent mannerismscharacterized violent criminals and crafty thieves. Robbers wereusually inspired by successes during their youth. Hence, it wascontradictory to undermine the effects of the anti-social tendencyamong adults.
Winnicott’s work was created in the context of the Second WorldWar. The author worked as a Consultant Psychiatrist for the expansiveevacuation scheme (Abram, 2007, p. 48). Winnicott gave plenty ofbroadcasts and talks due to his experiences. The post-war discussionsfocused on issues such as deprivation and separation. Suchexperiences motivated Winnicott to portray the antisocial tendency asa beaming sign of hope. In many instances, deprived children weresubjected to delinquency. The problems faced by such persons werequite predictable regardless of the circumstances.
Winnicott was exposed to children in need of special provisions owingto their troubled upbringing. The proliferation of war createdextensive disruption of family life as parents were separated fromtheir children. The loss of material property and death of loved onescreated intense sadness and disillusionment. Subsequently, manychildren engaged in bizarre behavior while coping with deprivation.Winnicott’s viewpoints and assumptions were shaped by hisinteractions with deprived children. His thoughts on emotional growthand development were similarly affected.
The antisocial tendency is quite relevant in many situations. Forexample, evacuees during war and social conflicts can lose hope dueto deprivation. Other individuals may lack a reliable holdingenvironment during critical stages of their emotional andpsychological development. The article has wider significance withregards to the management of psychotic patients. Healthcarepractitioners are especially required to show patience andunderstanding. Individuals who refused treatment or hurled insults atmedical practitioners should be treated with kindness. Adolescentswith challenging behavior also needed practical guidance in harmonywith their personal skills and capabilities.
Winnicott’sarticle makes numerous original contributions to ongoing debates ondeprivation. The author credits the mother-infant relationship as thedeterminant of antisocial tendencies. In this regard, the initialsigns of deprivation were seldom recognized. Children manifestgreediness through their interactions with the environment(Winnicott, 1956, p. 312). The infant is compelled to seekcompensation from his or her surroundings to ease their sense ofdeprivation. Personality distortion occurs when the child attributeshis or her depression to external factors (Winnicott, 1956, p.313).Parents have a wonderful opportunity to address antisocial tendenciesduring the early stages of development. The article presented uniqueinsights on the timing of deprivation after absolute dependency.Infants develop strong awareness of their vulnerability during thetime of relative dependence. Parental neglect at this juncture cancreate an insatiable desire for approval and intimacy. Hence, thearticle showed that antisocial acts occurred due to deprivation atcertain stages of emotional development.
Winnicott’s paper bears several similarities to contemporarydebates on juvenile delinquency. Law enforcement agencies causefamily separation when juveniles are incarcerated. Many offenders areincited to commit crimes due to interactions with devious peers.Regular association with irresponsible friends causes children toadopt harmful or offensive attitudes. Some youths join local criminalgangs that are infamous for robbery, violence, and vandalism. Drugbarons exploit the naivety of children to use them as unsuspectingpeddlers. Winnicott’s paper relates to contemporary debates in thearea of parental responsibility. Parents and guardians must enforcediscipline to the proper degree whenever children overstep theirboundaries.
Indeed, homes without established rules are environments of constantconflict. Children thrive where proper boundaries exist since theydevelop certainty. Structured homes act as a source of comfort andprotection. Although some parents undermine the value of house rules,it is proper to protect children from the consequences of thoughtlessdecisions. Winnicott’s paper also relates to earlier discoveriesabout mental development. In this regard, previous theories haveshown an increased likelihood of naivety in youths. Children seemincapable of considering the repercussions of bad decisions. Blindedfocus on momentary pleasure exposes teenagers to lifelongimplications. Past studies have shown how adolescents were yet toexperience comprehensive mental maturity. The cortex was customarilyunderdeveloped during teenage years. Hence, adolescents were morelikely to imitate their peers’ behavior. Participation in drugabuse, bullying, prostitution, smoking, and alcohol abuse were commonamong youths. Girls were at risk of unplanned pregnancies while boysfaced the threat of harmful diseases. On the other hand, Winnicottshowed the vulnerabilities associated with an infant’s emotionaldevelopment. Deprivation during the period of relative dependencewould always results in antisocial acts. Consequently, it was vitalfor children to have proper mental and emotional development.
Abram, J., 2007. The language of Winnicott: A dictionary ofWinnicott`s use of words. London: Karnac Books.
Winnicott, D.W., 1956. The antisocial tendency. Throughpaediatrics to psychoanalysis, pp.306-315.