‘Privileged Abandonment’ :
Whilst attending a boarding school is frequently regarded as a privilege by many in society, research by Duffell highlights the fact that the child’s experience of undergoing such schooling can all too often also involve inducing in him/her profound feelings of abandonment and neglect.
Indeed, Duffell, who has worked with many ex- boarding school pupils who have been adversely psychologically affected by their experience, refers to the concept of ‘privileged abandonment.’
In particular, Duffell highlights the fact that, very often, no matter how emotionally painful the child finds it to be separated from his/her parents, s/he is inhibited from showing such emotion due to the fear of being mocked, ridiculed and bullied by his/her peers as a result.
Usually, too, the child learns that s/he is prevented from reporting any bullying or abuse s/he may suffer whilst at school due to a prevailing culture secrecy and denial as well as fear of potential consequences.
Fear Of Appearing Ungrateful :
Because, as alluded to above, so many in society regard those who attend boarding school as ‘privileged’, or, even, ‘spoiled’, this makes it more difficult still for the child at boarding school to complain about feeling abandoned and frightened for fear of giving an impression of ingratitude; this may well especially be the case if the parents manipulate the child by emphasizing the sacrifices they have been compelled to make in order to pay for his/her education.
As adults, many individuals may enter a state of denial about the adverse psychological effects their time at boarding school had on them, pushing the emotional torment it caused them at the time out of their conscious minds and below the level of awareness ; this may explain why it is not uncommon for those who suffered considerably as a result of their schooling to send their own children to boarding schools where they may undergo similar experiences of suffering.
Duffell and other researchers suggest that the adverse effects on the individual of attending boarding school may include him/her :
- developing a disdain for displays of emotion and vulnerability both from others and from him/herself
- developing a rigid, over-emphasized sense of importance in relation to self-reliance and not being dependent upon others
- developing a ‘durable’, but ‘brittle’ and ‘defensive’, personality
- lack of emotional development due to the necessity, whilst growing up at boarding school. to repress feelings of emotional dependency
- lack of trust in relationships in adulthood
- fear of abandonment in adulthood
- shame about feeling / showing signs of vulnerability / dependence, including within intimate, adult relationships, leading to problems within such relationships
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).