Child Abandonment Syndrome: Background information when reading Lila

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Lila by Marilynne Robinson X
Lila by Marilynne Robinson
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Oct 2014, 272 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2015, 272 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Sharry Wright
Buy This Book

About this Book

Child Abandonment Syndrome

This article relates to Lila

Print Review

Throughout the novel, Lila, the protagonist suffers a deep ongoing shame resulting from early childhood abuse and neglect. Although it is never articulated in the story, there is a name for this response: Child Abandonment Syndrome.

In a 2010 article published in a blog, "The Many Faces of Addiction," for Psychology Today, Claudia Black, M.S.W., Ph. D., states that children who live without the psychological or physical protection they need, internalize incredible fear. Without the physical conditions necessary to thrive— appropriate supervision, the provision of nutrition and meals, and/or adequate clothing, housing, heat or shelter—a child experiences abandonment. According to Black, living with repeated abandonment experiences creates toxic shame arising from the painful message that the child (and the adult they become) is not important, that he or she is of no value. Black tells us that when children are not provided a safe environment, they grow up believing that the world is an unsafe place, that people are not to be trusted, and that they do not deserve positive attention and adequate care.

Children also experience abandonment when parents fail to provide the emotional conditions and environment necessary for healthy development. This can happen when a child fears rejection, feeling that it's necessary to hide a part of who he or she is, in order to be accepted. For the child, this means it's not okay to make a mistake; it's not okay to show feelings; it's not okay to have needs—that everyone else's needs appear to be more important than the child's; and it's not okay to have successes—accomplishments are not acknowledged, or are many times discounted. In an extreme case, a child who experiences physical and/or sexual abuse also experiences abandonment.

Black tells us that similar problems arise when children can't live up to parental expectations, which might be unrealistic and not age-appropriate; when they are held responsible for other people's behavior, when they are consistently blamed for the actions and feelings of their parents; and when a parent's disapproval of their child is aimed at the child's entire being or identity instead of a particular behavior, such as telling a child he is worthless when he does not do his homework or she is never going to be a good athlete because she missed the final catch of the game.

In an online article published in 2013, "Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder of Abandonment," author Susan Anderson states that "the intense emotional crisis of abandonment can create a trauma severe enough to leave an emotional imprint on individuals' psycho-biological functioning, affecting their future choices and responses to rejection, loss, or disconnection." People who have had a traumatic abandonment experience in childhood are likely to develop post-traumatic symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress disorder. Anxiety manifested as persuasive insecurity, diminished self-esteem and heightened vulnerability in social contexts are earmarks of this disorder. Interestingly, in her prologue to the book, To The End of June, a look at the American foster care system, author Cris Beam states that foster children are twice as likely as combat vets to develop PTSD.

Anderson says that the impact of such trauma can be addressed through a program of abandonment therapy techniques designed to help victims overcome the fallout caused by these damaging experiences.

Article by Sharry Wright

This "beyond the book article" relates to Lila. It originally ran in November 2014 and has been updated for the October 2015 paperback edition.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Price We Pay
    The Price We Pay
    by Marty Makary
    The Hippocratic Oath is one of the oldest affidavits in history, originating in ancient Greece. ...
  • Book Jacket: The Fountains of Silence
    The Fountains of Silence
    by Ruta Sepetys
    The Spanish Civil War and its aftermath was a complicated period in history. The issues each side ...
  • Book Jacket: Curious Toys
    Curious Toys
    by Elizabeth Hand
    In Curious Toys, Elizabeth Hand tells the story of Vivian, a 14-year-old girl disguised as a boy ...
  • Book Jacket: Your House Will Pay
    Your House Will Pay
    by Steph Cha
    Steph Cha's novel Your House Will Pay shows how a legacy of violence and injustice can ripple ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Nothing to See Here
    by Kevin Wilson

    A moving and uproarious novel about a woman who finds meaning caring for two children with remarkable abilities.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Mighty Justice
    by Dovey Johnson Roundtree & Katie McCabe

    An inspiring life story that speaks urgently to our troubled times.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Home for Erring and Outcast Girls

From the author of
Calling Me Home

An emotionally raw and resonant story of two young women connected by a home for "fallen girls," and inspired by historical events.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

W G Up M C D

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.