The Interpersonal World of the Infant: A View from Psychoanalysis and Developmental Psychology

The Interpersonal World of the Infant: A View from Psychoanalysis and Developmental Psychology

The Interpersonal World of the Infant: A View from Psychoanalysis and Developmental Psychology

The Interpersonal World of the Infant: A View from Psychoanalysis and Developmental Psychology

Synopsis

How do babies experience the world around them? How do they bring together the varied sights, sounds, and sensations to create a social environment? These questions have long intrigued students of human development, but until recently we have had to rely on adult memories to imagine what infants think and feel. Now, in this brilliant book, famed infant psychiatrist Daniel Stern brings together the exciting new research on infants and the insights of psychoanalysis to offer an original theory of how human beings create a sense of themselves and their relation to others. Unlike those who view early development as a gradual process of separation and individuation, Stern argues that infants differentiate themselves almost from birth and then progress through increasingly complex modes of relatedness. He describes this process in fascinating detail, vividly showing how infants and their caregivers communicate and share their experience. Stern challenges not only the traditional developmental sequence but also the notion that certain tasks are confined to infancy. Attachment, trust, and dependency are clinical issues throughout life, he contends- a concept that has important implications for psychoanalytic practice. Elegantly argued and rich in new insights, The Interpersonal World of the Infant is certain to be welcomed as a major contribution to our understanding of infancy and of psychological development throughout the life cycle.

Excerpt

The paths leading toward my writing this book have been many and interwoven. When I was a resident in psychiatry and in psychoanalytic training, we were always asked to summarize each case with a psychodynamic formulation, that is, an explanatory historical account of how the patient became the person who walked into your office. The account was to begin as early as possible in the patient's life, to include the preverbal and preoedipal influences operating during infancy. This task was always an agony for me, especially trying to tie the infancy period into a coherent life account. It was agonizing because I was caught in a contradiction. On one side, there was the strong conviction that the past influences the present in some coherent fashion. This fundamental assertion of all dynamic psychologies was one of the things that made psychiatry, for me, the most fascinating and complex of all the branches of medicine. Psychiatry was the only clinical discipline for which development really mattered. But on the other side, my patients knew so little about their earliest life histories and I knew even less about how to ask about them. So I was forced to pick and choose among those few facts about their infancies that best fit the existing theories and from these selected pickings come up with a coherent historical account. The formulations for all of the cases began to sound alike. Yet the people were very different. This exercise was like playing a game with limited moves--or worse, smacked of intellectual dishonesty--in an endeavor that otherwise adhered so closely to what felt to be true. The earliest months and years of life held a firm and prominent place in the theories, but occupied a speculative and obscure role in dealing with a real person. This contradiction has continued to disturb and intrigue me. Addressing this contradiction is one of the major tasks of this book.

A second path began when I discovered the current research in developmental psychology. It promised new approaches and tools for finding out more about that earliest period. And I used those tools for the next fifteen years, together with the clinical approach. This . . .

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