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Fajardo, B. (1987). Neonatal Trauma and Early Development. Ann. Psychoanal., 15:233-244.

(1987). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 15:233-244

Neonatal Trauma and Early Development

Barbara Fajardo, Ph.D.

Over the past five years or so, psychoanalysis has had an ambivalent romance with infant research. Some of the research findings seem agreeable and stimulating for psychoanalytic theories of development, and are therefore readily embraced. On the other hand, some findings are so contrary to familiar beliefs of psychoanalysts that they are summarily dismissed or ignored. Recently there have been a number of thoughtful publications, notably those by Lichtenberg (1983) and Emde (1981), which review infant-research findings and attemt to make them relevant and useful to psychoanalytic theory and practice. Among the most agreeable and appealing research findings are the studies which detail and describe the nature and significance of the mother-infant interaction for the development of the child. Psychoanalysis has long held great respect for the mother-child dyad as the foundation for child development and for important aspects of adult pathology. Much of infant research focuses on the dyad, or the child in the context of the dyad, since the infant is necessarily part of a dyad with the caretaker. All infant research is ultimately an inquiry into aspects of interaction between mother and child; even if the interaction itself is not the subject for observation, any observable behavior or capacity of the infant is referable to the interaction with mother, either as impacting on it or as an outcome of it.

The majority of infant psychologists believe that the impetus or driving force for development is social interaction, originally in the mother-infant dyad and expanding to include interactions with other adults and children, (Brazelton, Kowlowski, and Main, 1974; Stern, 1977; Bruner, 1977). In this belief they are synchronous with most psychoanalytic clinicians and researchers such as Spitz, Bowlby, Mahler, and Emde.

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