IPA Inter-Regional Encyclopedic Dictionary of Psychoanalysis

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V. A. 1950s – 1970s

V. Aa. Infant Studies René Spitz (1945, 1965, 1972), studying institutionalized infants, coined the term of ‘anaclitic depression’ for the impact on infants of long term separation from their caregivers. He was also the first one to note the difference between the affectionate and mechanical caregiver’s behaviors. In this view, it was not just the effect of prologed separation but also the mechanical administering to the infants in an institution, akin to a ‘dead mother’, that effected the ‘anaclitic depression’. Spitz stressed affectionate ‘holding’ of the infant by caregivers, which promotes rich tactile affective nonverbal comunication between the infant and their caregiver. Following Bowlby (1969) in England, Ainsworth (Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters and Wall, 1978) in the USA developed contemporary attachment theory as the behavioral correspondence of internalized object relations under the influence of the early mother-infant relationship (Diamond and Blatt, 2007). Ainsworth et al. (1978) defined attachment as an affective bond between the infant and a caregiver (Blum, 2004), and categorized several attachment types, allowing for highly individualized differences along a continuum from secure to insecure (avoidant, ambivalent, disorganized) attachment. Distress of the infant was inferred from the overall infant-mother relationship rather than from a specific traumatic experience. This tradition continued within the Ego Psychology orientation with Mahler (Mahler, Pine, Bergman, 1975) and various Relational theoretical orientations in the infant research of Beebe (Beebe and Lachmann, 2005), and the work of the Boston Change Process Group (Stern et. al. 1998). V. Ab. Mahler After Hartmann, the most influential expansion to the drive model encompassing new dimensions of psychological development came from Margaret Mahler. Mahler’s original interest in the child’s earliest object relations derived from her study of severe pathology in children – autism and symbiotic psychosis - where she noted an extreme inability to form a nurturing relationship with caregivers (Mahler, Ross and DeFries, 1949; Mahler, 1952; Mahler and Gosliner, 1955). This led to the development of a theory of normal child development in which object relations and the self were seen as outgrowths of instinctual vicissitudes. Following Hartmann, “The problem of ‘adaptation’ in her work is specifically construed as coming to terms with the human environment” (Greenberg and Mitchell, 1983, p.272).


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