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Mayes, L.C. Cohen, D.J. (1996). Children's Developing Theory Of Mind. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 44:117-142.

(1996). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 44:117-142

Children's Developing Theory Of Mind

Linda C. Mayes and Donald J. Cohen

Studies from the developmental research perspective inform analytic understanding of the neuropsychological preconditions necessary for children's increasing awareness of their own and others' mental lives. Conversely, psychoanalytically informed observations of children's early development demonstrate how the child's emerging understanding of other minds is contextualized in the earliest interactions between parent and child. The notion of a gradually developing understanding of mind that becomes most evident in observational studies between 4 and 6 years of age provides a developmental context for considering children's capacity for internalization, their creation of an inner, psychic reality, and their response to therapeutic interventions during an analytic hour. Significant for psychoanalytic work with children is the suggestion that only after children are able to understand how their own and other's mental states are constructed and how such states are behind all actions and language can they then reflect upon their own thoughts and mental life. Developing a theory of the mind of the other integrates psychoanalytic notions of self-other differentiation, of the development of internalized representations of others, and ultimately of the capacity for selfreflection.

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