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Encephale. 2007 May-Jun;33(3 Pt 1):293-9.

[New society, new families: a new basic personality? From the neurotic to the narcissistic-hedonistic personality].

[Article in French]

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  • 1CHU de Brest.



In Occidental countries the frame of modern families has been reshaped, and vast economical and social changes have taken place over the last thirty years. They have been marked by the disengagement of the State in the marriage, a giant evolution in conjugality which is becoming privatized and made insecure, changes in gender relations, new motives and conditions for the arrival of the child in the couple, i.e. planned birth, wished or desired infant, infant conceived for oneself, and parenthood has been turned upside down through the extensive evolution of its laws and symbolic-landmarks as well as in practical experience. As these new coordinates of the family are now centred on the consensus instead of authority for the organisation of relationships between its members and on hedonism instead of duty as main value, with a child issued from the desire and acknowledged, from the onset, as a full person "the baby is a person" a child made "for oneself and for him/herself" (and not for the society), brought up in an environment where the media can be considered as a "third parent" because of it's growing importance, the structure of the child's psyche no longer matches the neurotic model.


Studies made by anthropologists have led us to hypothesise a new "basic personality" in order to reflect the consequences of the new landmarks in society and the new family, as well as the outcome of new educational practices; this new "basic personality" would replace the basic normal/neurotic one, which dominated over the first half of the twentieth century.


This basic personality, which could be termed as "narcissistic-hedonistic", is characterized by few internalizations, a poorly efficient Superego, nearly no guilt feeling, a weakly socialized Ideal Self suggesting more the Ideal Self of the early childhood, and finally a difficulty in experiencing or testing oneself as a free subject. The resulting narcissistic fragility leads the subject to be more dependent on external objects, to be allergic to frustration, to find delay in the achievement of instinctive aims hard to take, to develop an exaggerated pursuit of perception and sensations. The relation to time is also affected through a privileged investment in the present and the shading off of historical time. These changes must lead to a different subjectivity stemming from a new basic personality. Disorders may stem from three axis of this new basic personality: dependency with attachment disorders, narcissistic fragility, and a high risk of depression; guilt-free "narcissistic perversion" with people, who use other people for their own and exclusive interest, without real empathy; "light" psychopathy, with people capable of social integration for shorts periods of time, with a lot of breaking off in love, friendship, and professional ties.


This new configuration where specific pathologies are associated with a new basic personality implies serious thought with regards to care practices so as to adapt them to the patterns of patients.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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