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Tiny baby being soothed by its mother

More on containment and holding environments

In the previous step Dr Laura Steckley provided an introduction to the concepts of containment and holding environments.

In the article ‘Constrained, Contained or Falling to Pieces?’ she explores this in a bit more detail. This article appeared in the November 2010 edition of the online journal CYC-Online and the full edition of the journal can be accessed also. This journal is aimed at those working in the field of child and youth care (CYC), a concept you will be introduced to in week four of the course.

In this article Laura reflects upon what the concept of containment has to offer when we think about working with and caring for vulnerable children and young people. She sets out some of the early thinking of Wilfred Bion and how he identified the containment offered by parents and caregivers as being fundamental to growth and development. The strong parallels with the theory of attachment, covered elsewhere this week, are highlighted also.

Laura writes this article through the lens of residential child care, a setting where some vulnerable children and young people may find themselves placed for a short or long period of time. However, the links to all children and young people and their need for emotional and physical containment can be easily made.

Many of the children (and families) we work with have faced difficult circumstances and experienced significant disruptions to these early processes of containment. As a result, their development of thinking, particularly the thinking that enables them to manage and make sense of things, may have been limited. For some, the impact can be profound. You can probably identify kids you’ve worked with who cannot recognise their own emotions, let alone identify themselves as having them rather than being them.

The sources in the ‘See Also’ section may be consulted for more information on the topic.

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This article is from the free online course:

Caring for Vulnerable Children

University of Strathclyde

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