Is knowledge of child development of value for
What are your views and experiences?
I have read the question about the relevance of
child development and I am somewhat puzzled. Our theory
started as one derived from "infantile sexuality" and
certainly did not end there. Ego development, added
depth, diversity and additional dimensions to our
theory and our treatment options. Certainly there is
"development" beyond early childhood, ie latency,
adolescence and adulthood (a new and growing area for
inquiry). But I think we have to acknowledge that this
"onion" has many layers and early childhood is one of
them and cannot be ignored. Our comments to patients are
often "couched" in the language of early development.
When we talk of "defenses", we are talking of early
development. "Adolescence", according to some authors,
has been labelled the "second separation individuation"
period-and the language used to describe this period is
reminiscent of the early S-I dynamics. Behavior is
multiply determined and I do not think we can ignore the
early childhood component. However, at the same time,
therapy has to be "focused" on progressive movement and
not regressive movement. Acknowledgement of early CH
factor does not exclusively mean "regressive".
Obviously, this comment comes from a child and
adolescent psychiatrist and psychoanalyst..
Chester M. Berschling, MD
Luckily, my psychoanalytic education coincided with the
popularity of Margaret Mahler (I had the chance to be in
a seminar with her) and so her work on
separation-individuation had a great impact on my
classical training. Understanding my adult patients in
terms of their childhood development has been enhanced.
Many patients have experienced trauma in the earliest
years and their rapprochement was fraught with
difficulty. Along with Anna Freud's Metapsychology
Assessment paper and her concept of developmental lines,
Mahler's research casts light on how the ego develops.
Studying child development brings a new dimension to
understanding the adult analysand. Winnicott's 'good
enough mother' explains the repercussions of inadequate
mothering, and how a person's life is shaped by the
depressed mother, the unavailable mother, the mother who
does not protect the child. The oedipus complex is
effected by each parent and its resolution depends on
the safety of childhood. In sum, I thing that
understanding childhood development, including the new
brain studies, makes adult psychoanalysis more possible
and more productive than ever.
My introduction to psychoanalysis was by way of child
development. Working as a pediatrician I was
puzzled and intrigued by childhood psychological
disturbances and fascinated by the babies I cared for.
I found a pathway to understanding through the
writings of Sigmund Freud, Anna Freud and others and in
conversation with analytically oriented pediatricians
such as Bob Furman and Marshall Klaus. I now view
child development as one of the "basic sciences" of
psychoanalysis, an irreplaceable and ever growing
requirement of understanding of the human psyche. I
refer to child development in all its aspects, physical
and cultural as well as psychological. The analyst must
especially keep the physical underpinnings of psychology
in mind, must keep "the body in mind," and there is no
better way to do this than to revisit and learn from the
infant, the toddler, the school age child, the
adolescent. Important as it is, child development is not
primarily important to me as a way to understand my
patients' conflicts, but as a window without which I
cannot see into what lives today. We all live as
the infant, child and adolescent within us and cannot
comprehend our adult self if we cut off a portion of who
we are from our considerations.
The invitation to this dialogue is as
exciting as it is important. In my
opinion knowledge and interest in Child development is
a salient component of any analyst's
work; we are always meeting the developmental history
and story of a given patient, regardless of the
patient's age. The analyst's
counter-transference and reverie is also in the room
as the analyst remembers and reflects on his
developmental events.I was so fortunate
to have Dr. Al Solnit as my friend and mentor late in
1960 when I was a student in new haven. Dr.
Solnit impressed upon me the importance of studying at
the Yale Child Study Center before moving on to
psychoanalysis with adults.Knowledge of
Child development (and family systems) has deeply
influenced the way I listen to patients and greatly
enhanced my work.
Rina Freedman, NCP, Los Angeles.
Miss Freud had a well balanced and thorough answer to
we are addressing. She has published her opinion
(1965) in her book
Normality and Pathology in Childhood, The pages
which contain her
opinion are p. 10 to 24. The title of the section
is DIRECT CHILD OBSERVATION IN THE SERVICE OF
PSYCHOANALYTIC CHILD PSYCHOLOGY. SHE OFFERS
PROS AND CONS WITH CLINICAL EXAMPLES.
I notice that other contributors to this
discussion praise direct
child observation but offer neither examples nor
their opinions. In contrast, Miss Freud points out
psychoanalytic discoveries made during child
observation are made
only by people who are already analytically
trained and that
observations are inferred and NOT able to be
Observation of child behavior with inferred
explanations of its
meaning is an exercise in reinforcement of
My own experience has been that child observation
can be useful, if
one is under the guidance of someone experienced.
It is difficult to
apply the information offered in clinical
similarity, resulting during observational
comparisons, can help in
the choice of content of questions asked of
It is not possible to predict future symptoms
observation: see page 207 in Miss Freud's book.
Only in verbal
children who can answer questions can one draw
conclusions about the
meaning of behavior. For example see Ernst Kris'
1951 paper SOME
COMMENTS AND OBSERVATIONS ON
ACTIVITIES ( PSC 6:95-116) He actually asked children
what they were thinking while masturbating.
Observer's memory-alerted attention/perception
draws the observer to similarities that support
CA SARNOFF, M.D.
of the key elements of an adult treatment is the
construction of a life narrative. The human tendency
is to retroactively structure our memories in such a
way as to give our lives and our sense of self meaning
and continuity. Our patients remember their past in
order to understand their present, but what they
remember and how they remember is not static. How
memories are constructed is influenced by the present
moment and by transformations in the course of
development. We cannot know all the facts of our
patients’ past, much less their childhood sensations,
perceptions, thoughts, and feelings. However, we can
be aware of the cognitive and emotional advances,
central conflicts, fantasies, and patterns of
interactions typical of each major developmental
period. This knowledge allows us to be more fully
attuned to our patients’ process of selection of
childhood memories and to the transformations in their
meaning and significance. A developmental perspective
allows for a much deeper understanding of the
narratives our patients have constructed, and offers a
way to examine them and to make room for alternative
interpretations and change.
New York, New York