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Dowling, S. (1987). The Development and Sustaining of Self-Esteem in Childhood: Edited by John E. Mack and Steven L. Ablon. Madison, Conn.: Int. Univ. Press, 1983, 304 pp., $32.50. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 35:750-754.

(1987). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 35:750-754

The Development and Sustaining of Self-Esteem in Childhood: Edited by John E. Mack and Steven L. Ablon. Madison, Conn.: Int. Univ. Press, 1983, 304 pp., $32.50

Review by:
Scott Dowling, M.D.

Vicissitudes of self-esteem are ubiquitous and important as expressions of psychological disturbance; as motivating factors in human action, including motivation for analytic treatment; and as a central aspect of the experience of work, love, and play. The title of this book implies a comprehensive study of the developmental aspects of self-esteem. Further, the presence of Steven Ablon and Pulitzer Prize winner John Mack as editors suggests a strong psychoanalytic treatment of the issue and a high level of readability and scholarship. I was partially disappointed: the discussion of clinical material is useful; the more purely theoretical presentations are interesting, but of limited application.

The book is a collection of 15 papers—all but one by Boston area analysts, psychiatrists, psychologists, a social worker, and a teacher. The data presented in the book are not psychoanalytic, i.e., not from analyses of adults or children, and the psychological viewpoint is not that of traditional psychoanalysis. There is strong emphasis on self psychology and on other nonconflict-oriented concepts.

In his "Overview," Mack emphasizes "self" as thing or structure rather than as a descriptive term to indicate an individual's subjective sense of psychological coherence and continuity. He then makes it clear that "the self" only exists in relation to others; the "self" transcends the individual: "… the self is from the start of life a social entity, defined by its relationships in groups of two or more persons.

[This is a summary or excerpt from the full text of the book or article. The full text of the document is available to subscribers.]

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