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Tuttman, S. (1985). Edith Jacobson's Major Contributions to Psychoanalytic Theory of Development. Am. J. Psychoanal., 45(2):135-147.

(1985). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 45(2):135-147

Edith Jacobson's Major Contributions to Psychoanalytic Theory of Development Related Papers

Saul Tuttman, M.D., Ph.D.

Edith Jacobson celebrated her eightieth birthday in January of 1977. She attended a meeting held in her honor in New York City at which Jacob Arlow (1), George Gero (1), and I (1) expressed our admiration and appreciation. Soon afterward Dr. Jacobson died, and a volume entitled Object and Self: A Developmental Approach (1) was published in honor of this “outstanding clinician … and a teacher of note” (2). Jacobson's major psychoanalytic concerns dealt with the development of the sense of identity and self-esteem and with an understanding of depression and psychoses.

Born in Hanau, Germany, Jacobson studied medicine in Munich. She studied psychiatry in Berlin and attended the Psychoanalytic Institute there. In 1930 she presented her first papers on superego development. In 1938 she settled in New York City, but between these years a drama had unfolded. While in a Nazi prison under life-threatening conditions, she had written a remarkable paper later to appear under the title “Observations on the Psychological Effects of Imprisonment on Female Political Prisoners” (3). A second paper (based upon her prison experiences), which finally appeared in the Psychoanalytic Quarterly in 1976, is “Ways of Female Superego Formation and the Female Castration Conflict” (4).

Jacobson, while living in Nazi Germany, had treated a young woman who was politically active in the underground. Jacobson suggested that this patient leave Germany when her life was endangered. The patient was misled into returning to Germany where she went through an inquisition about her allies and eventually was murdered by the Nazis.

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