Il Bambino E le Sue Relazioni. Attaccamento E Individualità Tra Teoria E Osservazione [the Child and His Relationships: Attachment and Individuality between Theory and Observation]1

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Il bambino e le sue relazioni. Attaccamento e individualità tra teoria e osservazione [The Child and His Relationships: Attachment and Individuality Between Theory and Observation]1 by Cristina Riva Crugnola Raffaello Cortina, Milano, 2007; 268 pp.

Although, from Freud onwards, the central paradigm guiding analytic work has been that of the dream, the model of the mother-baby relationship has become, in its various forms, a reference point of almost equal importance as psychoanalysis has moved from a unipersonal psychology to a bipersonal or intersubjective psychology. But the baby, as conceived of (in both clinical and 'theoretical' terms) by psychoanalysis, is not always the same as the one which interests researchers using an experimental or observational approach to investigate the infantile world. Riva Crugnola's book seeks to bridge this gap, to integrate the psychoanalytic perspectives on this subject with infant research, attachment theory and also with some of the findings of neuroscience. For example, on the subject of neuroscience, the author makes reference to the discovery, by Giacomo Rizzolatti and Vittorio Gallese and their team, of the so-called 'mirror-neurones', an innate neuro-physiological mechanism which seems to form the basis of empathy and intersubjective states. The author's constant aim in the book is to highlight at every point the convergences between the different disciplines which focus on infantile relational development. In this way she shows her extensive and direct knowledge of the subject matter and her gift for clarity of expression and for summarizing. The book is successful because it manages to single out several 'nodal' concepts which operate as 'crossroads'. This allows for an encounter between the various approaches and for the recognition of the points where they overlap.

Among these concepts is projective identification - as conceived by Klein, but, moreover, as reformulated by Bion and then interpreted by Ogden (1979) in his classic article, On projective identification. For Ogden, the projection of aspects of one's own psyche into the other is accompanied by an active interpersonal pressure which acts via many communicative channels to induce the other effectively to accept the projection. As such, projective identification becomes a powerful instrument for theorizing the unconscious communication which is always taking place not only between mother and child but also between the patient and the analyst. Later, Grotstein (2005) renamed the notion 'projective trans-identification' to specify that in reality projection takes place into the unconscious image that one has of the other.

The book is divided into two sections. In the first section, Riva Crugnola conducts a wide-ranging critical review of the literature, considering, in particular, the contributions of Colwyn Trevarthen, Edward Tronick, Daniel Stern, Robert Emde, Andrew Meltzoff and Beatrice Beebe to the study of emotional regulation in the parent-child relationship. From this emerges a detailed picture of how the infant comes to construct an Ego and achieves a sufficiently integrated sense of self through complex interaction with the mother (or caregiver). During this process, factors such as the baby's temperament and his early relational capacity come into play, as well as factors which help or hinder the mother's responsiveness. Precise theoretical understanding is interwoven with clinical description and research in the field which have obvious value in themselves but, for a reader who is not involved in child analysis, they add meaning, precision and richness to the mother-baby model used in adult psychoanalysis (from Ferenczi and Klein to Winnicott and Bion). Riva Crugnola's insights are an invaluable resource in helping us to arrive at both clinical and theoretical intuitions and hypotheses.

In particular, it becomes impossible not to become aware of the aspects of intersubjective communication which are preverbal, pre-reflexive and presymbolic. …