The Foundations of Psychiatry

By Silvano Arieti | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 12

INFANT DEVELOPMENT

David E. Schecter

THE FRAME OF REFERENCE of the behavioral sciences, including psychiatry, is increasingly expanding to include psychohistorical and intergenerational considerations, especially with the realization that the needs of child, youth, and adult are, to a large degree, mutually interdependent—each group having needs to confirm and be confirmed by the other. We mean to emphasize in our discussion of infancy—approximately the first fifteen months of life—the reciprocal relatedness between child and caretaker, whether the caretaker is parent, professional, or extended family. With new possibilities in societal and childrearing structures (the day‐ care center, the kibbutz, the commune), it is more important than ever to understand the nature of the infant and his dependency on his caretakers, even if the child were to be conceived in a test tube. For practical purposes we will assume that the family—or a variant thereof—is still viable and still a rather universal matrix in which children are reared, notwithstanding the influences of other institutions. * Traditional parental roles—and

the security that comes with these roles—have already broken down to varying degree in the Western nuclear family, with an ensuing search for new forms of childrearing that may be adaptive to a relatively unknown and unpredictable future world. Hence the widespread phenomenon of acute and chronic parental doubting concerning a range of problems connected with child and adolescent rearing, with life style, and with basic value orientation.

Although traditionally concerned with alleviating symptoms and altering deviant behavior, psychiatry has moved into community concerns, recognizing its potential contribution to the fostering of mental and emotional well-being as well as to the prevention and treatment of suffering and destructive behavior among the people of the world. If we can understand the nature of human development in its various sociocultural forms, we increase the possibilities of knowing the conditions under which "healthy" development can be facilitated. Since the human organism has a wide range of adaptability, the issues of "health" and adaptation are closely related. "Adaptation to what" involves matters of

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*
See Murdock53 on the issue of the universality of the family.

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