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Compton, A. (1985). The Development of the Drive Object Concept in Freud's Work: 1905–1915. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 33:93-115.

(1985). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 33:93-115

The Development of the Drive Object Concept in Freud's Work: 1905–1915

Allan Compton, M.D.

SUMMARY

In 1905 Freud established the idea of an object of an instinctual drive as the basic object concept of psychoanalysis. He also introduced the derivative concepts of object directedness, object choice, and object finding. While taking these steps he simultaneously deemphasized the importance of drive objects in sexual life, contradicted himself on whether drives are autoerotic or object-directed in infancy, and made incompatible statements about whether or not object choice occurs before puberty.

Freud's clinical work, reflected especially in the major case reports and a series of papers on fantasy, led to an apparent recognition of complexity in the mental life of children far greater than had been described earlier. The increased attention to and appreciation of mental content in childhood especially augmented Freud's understanding of the role of drive objects, object directedness, and object choice in infancy. This, in turn, led him to postulate a sequence of organizations of sexual life, named according to the zonal drive source plus the mode of object directedness, a process of theory development that continued through 1924.

Object choice and, to a lesser extent, object directedness are concepts derived from and dependent upon the concept of drive object. Both require, however, explanatory constructs besides drive constructs. In 1915 Freud defined the term "object"

in the context of stating his drive theory. Freud used the term object with several new modifying words during this decade. No new object concept was introduced, however, in this work, although some steps in that direction appeared to be in progress.

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