In this sort of behaviour the child, rather compulsively, tends
to respond to objects by placing the object into a space between
other objects, or behind other objects, or within another object,
or out of windows. The objects might
be items of furniture, or items of clothing. Thus one girl, an
obsessive poster, used to post objects behind furniture, behind
radiators, down her dress and so on. Another seemed to be more prone
to post items out of windows. Such behaviour, with its compulsive
aspect, may well interfere with more specific and normal uses of the
Various questions arise:-
1. With reference to the behaviour, of any particular child or w.r.t.
children in general:-
a. Is the behaviour directed at any particular object or type
of object? If so, why?
b. Are there any typical characteristics of the space?
c. Is the behaviour more frequent under certain conditions? If so
what are they?
d. Is the behaviour related to the normal behaviour of putting away
, or throwing away, objects, seen as a later phase of the
implementation of a realistic plan?
2. With reference to the child shewing the behaviour:-
a. Is one sex more likely to shew the behavior than the other? Most
of the cases I have seen have been female, is this generally
true, and if so what does it mean?
b. What other characteristics of the child might be associated with
the behaviour, e.g. personality, emotional and physical maturity, etc.
(These observations were made over a number of years. Here we will note
typical or striking examples of the behaviour under discussion).
1. J. W. : Sex: F   d. of b.:
24 . 03 . 83
age: 9 dev.level: about 3
"J.s fascination with, and motivation for, the 'posting' behaviour can
be considered to have a strong sexual element, the objects, spatial
relationships and activities she uses and produces can be seen to be
symbolic of sexual objects, sexual spatial relationships and sexual
actions, (taking the term 'sexual' to refer to any of Freud's
psychosexual stages, i.e. oral, anal, phallic and genital)".
1. Frank sexual behaviour in Freud's sense
She constantly licks her palm and wipes this down onto her chin, so
much so that her chin becomes extremely sore.
She holds her comfort cloth over her nostrils and her mouth, pressing
it against her lips. Sometimes she inserts material into her nostrils,
e.g. part of the hem of her dress.
She has a history of playing with her faeces.
If given the opportunity, through not having any restrictive clothing
on, she will play with her genitals, and also stuff the edge of any
available piece of cloth into them.
She can, on occasions, be quite coquettish and flirtatious with
2. Symbolic, 'sublimated' sexual behaviour- the posting behaviours etc.
She places objects into the narrow, vertical spaces between the
backs of cupboards and the wall, through windows, under tables,
into boxes, from one box to another, and from boxes onto the floor.
She tears paper into small pieces and puts these into containers of
various kinds, e.g. plastic cups, plastic toy seaside buckets, and
translucent plastic bottles. She also puts other objects into
containers, e.g. crayons into tumblers, pieces of insoles taken from
her shoes are put into her socks, and laces from the shoes are put into
her socks, (both socks and shoes having been taken off her feet by
She winds shoelaces, elastic bands etc. around her fingers.
Clearly the motive behind the posting is very strong, as frustrating
or blocking it leads to a great deal of anger and aggression. This
makes it very likely that one of the major biogenic drives is involved,
sex being one of these.
Another motivation and satifaction, possibly a secondary one, is the
control and domination of her physical and social environment, we
note that when a behaviour is construed as 'psychological', or as a
sign of 'illness' it is more likely to be allowed, tolerated and
accepted than if it is regarded as just 'naughty'.
This also applies to J.'s behaviour of constantly undressing and
refusing to walk. The author's approach to this girl, contrary to the
mother's, was never to accept such behaviours, which resulted in
a great improvement in her behaviour, as time went by.
The dominating nature of her rituals is also shown by the
verbalisations which sometimes accompany the behaviour, e.g.:-
(all commands, and all verbs in the imperative mood)
In these situations she can boss objects about, just as people
try to boss her about. Note that these situations are one type
in which she becomes more fluent. Possibly this is not coincidental,
the one assertive, dominating behaviour is accompanied by a verbal,
expressive, equally assertive and dominating parallel type of
Other relevant past behaviours of J.
Brought soil in from garden and sprinkled this on windowsill. One
incident when she smeared faeces over books, clothing, and herself
and enjoyed being showered by her father.
Mother reports that J. has started to bang the doors of the house
At home turns taps on, puts flannels in the plug holes so there's a
risk of flooding.
Around 7.00 p.m. J. becomes very difficult to manage. This is when
J.'s father is trying to eat his evening meal. J. becomes very giggly
and will go into the kitchen and grab at items which will cause the
maximum disruption. She has also started opening and closing the oven
door. This is a particularly bad time of day because the mother
wishes to spend some time with her husband on his return from work.
5 September 1988
J. is lunging at her sister's and her mother's eyes and trying to
scratch/poke around them.
16 February 1988
Mother is the main target of J.'s head butting. She tries to reach
her mother's head, if she can't do this she will head butt on her arm.
She also pulls her mother's hair, this behaviour is usually triggered
by a request such as "Sit down J."
At home flooding toilet, smashing plant pots, fish tank, mugs, a
pyrex jug etc.
At the date of the original report from which this data comes,
(22.03.93), it was observed that an interesting change had recently
occurred in J.s posting behaviour. It had become less large scale
and gross motor in character and smaller in scale, more fine motor
and more manual. There was less moving of all objects, large and
small, e.g. into one corner of a room and more posting type behaviour
of smaller objects from box to box, and so on, often done sitting down.
This might be for two reasons, the former type has been discouraged
by adults, and she herself is getting heavier and heavier and probably
would rather not engage on gross motor activity.
1 April 1993
In the play room
She posts little objects down behind the radiator. The gym equipment
table is close to the end wall of the room. At times J. herself
squeezes into the space between, goes through and then out again,
without holding any object. At times she drops objects into the space
without herself going in. Once she goes into the space with a soft toy,
a teddy, goes through and out the other side: she laughs and then
dangles the toy about.
She puts part of the hem of her dress into one of her nostrils and
then into her mouth, chewing the twisted-up end.
She then sits in a corner of the room, with a large yellow plastic
roller on her legs.
In the classroom
In playing with a set of nesting or building containers of different
sizes she certainly seems to prefer to nest them than to build them
into a tower. Even when the psychologist builds the containers into
a tower, then disassembles them and presents them to her she still
chooses to nest them, not build up with them.
But with leggo blocks she does quite happily assemble them into long
constructions, either of square pieces put togther, or rectangular
ones. But of course usually one physically cannot nest these;
with a larger sort of leggo block which had a space inside it she did
in fact, on a number of occasions, place a smaller leggo block inside
the larger, then shook the larger one, making the smaller one rattle
around. Then she tended to chuck the smaller object away.
Clearly the easiest explanation of the behaviour, and the one which
is most likely to be correct, is one which sees the behaviour as an
expression of the sexual and/or maternal drive. Whether or not the
explanations of the psychoanalysts are currently in fashion is of no
The space into which the objects are posted represents the
female genitals. The objects themselves might represent
This interpretation was supported by J.'s other behaviour of
inserting her comfort cloth, or parts of her dress, at various times,
into her vagina and the same objects, or her hair, into her nostrils.
(Note this equivalence of these behaviours, noted long ago by the
psychoanalysts.) She is creating babies and inserting them into her
womb. Her behaviour of smashing her mother's plant pots, and the fish
tank and so on, are expressions of a linked desire that her mother
not have babies, and not with her father.
They are disguised aggressive acts against the mother, who possesses
the female organs of generation, and which has produced a rival for
mother's and father's affections, i.e. J's older sister. The
fish in the tank would represent the embryo in the mother's womb.
In the behaviour in the kitchen J. tries to sabotage the cosy little
domestic scene between mother and father. To do this she tries to
make trouble in the kitchen. She has also started opening and
closing the oven door.This female, maternal symbol and the
female, maternal domain of the kitchen are made claim to by J.
She wants her mother out of the way, she wishes to be the mother and
to have her father.
The oven is a wonderful symbol of course, it's a womb-like container,
from it comes warm food, that which a mother produces, and what of the
colloquial phrase "to have a bun in the oven"! J. demonstrates a desire
to control the access from and to this hollow object, she opens
and closes the oven door. (Even at a normal level of signification,
(t.r.a.),the oven is still a symbol of being a wife and mother, a role
J. wishes to play).
The behaviour with the teddy in the play room looks very much like
a symbolic representation of birth and also has echoes of J.'s past
behaviour of dangling faeces about and the recent behaviour of
dangling and waggling a playdough 'sausage' inside a square playdough
cutter . The child's anal theory of birth must be considered here.
2. S. McD. : Sex: F   d. of b.
Friday 22. 12. 00
On going back to her unit from class at lunch time she rips some
magazine or catalogue pages, takes these bits and the magazines out
of the classroom and throws them away over the side of the stairs
leading down from the class to the ground level, into the bushes.
Here she is destroying some things and throwing them away, or just
throwing them away. These actions are equivalent and indicate a desire
to put the objects into a state where they will not, or cannot be used.
Taken less literally, this is the desire to put the objects which are
symbolised by the objects used, into a similar state of non-usability.
All these objects, if we follow Klein, should be regarded as female,
generative organ symbols. Sian is destroying the mother's, or any adult
female's womb and what is in it, she wants to do the procreation, with
some convenient male, father or father figure.
catalogues or magazines = females, ( either because often used by
females or because they have pictures of adult females in them )
clothes = female and mother symbol
containers = female symbol, especially of the womb
22.12.00 Inventory of objects which S. has thrown out of
windows of her unit.
The top lounge window
stilt walker toy (the parts that one puts ones feet on look like
plastic plant pots)
plastic cereal bowl
wire shopping basket
clear plastic pop bottles
aluminium pop cans
plastic yoghourt pots
a couple of knives, and forks and a spoon
A fellow student's bedroom window ( his bedroom is close to hers)
plastic vase shaped goblet
aluminium drinks containers
S's bedroom window
pages from magazines or catalogues
plastic yoghourt pots (2)
Most of these objects are containers of some type or clothes or
catalogues. There is also a strong connection with food items.
Some of these objects, on a realistic level are connected with food
and therefore with nurturance, possibly of others e.g. babies and
On a symbolic level we note that all the containers may represent the
female organs of generation, while the clothes represent parents,
especially mothers. These objects are ' put away ' or got rid of as
in the behaviour described above when S. was leaving the classroom.
The action of posting the objects through windows emphasises another
feature, that of putting an object through an opening. This would be
interpreted as giving birth. The fact that the objects are usually
soaked in water, before being put through the window, reinforces this
view of the behaviour. Water from the tap, in a sink or bath is not
basically different from her water (or urine) from her urethral
orifice, and from the amniotic fluid in the womb. I believe I am right
in recalling that on occasions S. has gone into other students bedrooms
and urinated on the bed or floor.
Staff are dogmatic in their view that S. is indiscriminate in her
choice of objects to post, but I am not convinced that they are right.
It seems that once she posted a television set through her window!
The circumstances of this are unknown. For all we know she may have
been watching a programme which annoyed her by touching on some of her
hang-ups, perhaps involving adult females, rather like someone
objecting to something he sees on television and firing a gun at the