The Psychological Birth of the Human Infant: Symbiosis and Individuation

The Psychological Birth of the Human Infant: Symbiosis and Individuation

The Psychological Birth of the Human Infant: Symbiosis and Individuation

The Psychological Birth of the Human Infant: Symbiosis and Individuation

Excerpt

As early as 1949, Mahler first adumbrated her theory that schizophrenia-like infantile psychosis syndromes were either autistic or symbiotic in origin, or both. In 1955, with Gosliner, she introduced her hypothesis of the universality of the symbiotic origin of the human condition, as well as the hypothesis of an obligatory separation-individuation process in normal development.

These hypotheses led to a research project on "The Natural History of Symbiotic Child Psychosis," carried out at the Masters Children's Center in New York, under the direction of Mahler and Dr. Manuel Furer (co-principal investigators). The project was sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health, USPHS. It was designed to study the gravest deviations of the assumed normal symbiotic phase and the complete failure of the obligatory intrapsychic separation-individuation process. The yield of this research is described in On Human Symbiosis and the Vicissitudes of Individuation: Volume I, Infantile Psychosis.

In its earliest stages, the research was limited to the study of symbiotic psychotic children and their mothers. However, the necessity of further validation of the above hypotheses in normal human development became more and more apparent to the two principal investigators of the project. A comparative parallel study was needed with normal babies and their mothers to substantiate the universality of the hypotheses. Hence in 1959, investigation of a control group of "average mothers and their normal babies" was begun at the Masters Children's Center. A pilot study, "The Development of Self-Identity and Its Disturbances," was made possible by grants from the Field Foundation and the Taconic . . .

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