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Lyons-Ruth, K. (2003). Dissociation and the Parent-Infant Dialogue: A Longitudinal Perspective from Attachment Research. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 51(3):883-911.

(2003). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 51(3):883-911

Dissociation and the Parent-Infant Dialogue: A Longitudinal Perspective from Attachment Research

Karlen Lyons-Ruth

Two longitudinal attachment studies of families at social risk have now followed their cohorts of infants to late adolescence. Several key findings have emerged related to outcomes of interest to psychoanalysts. First, data from both studies indicate that disorganized attachment behaviors in infancy are important precursors of later dissociative symptomatology. Second, this early vulnerability is related to patterns of parent-infant affective communication, particularly quieter behaviors like emotional unavailability or role reversal, and does not appear to reside in the infant alone. Finally, the results suggest that the quality of the attachment relationship may in part account for why some people exposed to later trauma develop dissociative symptoms and others do not. To paraphrase Dori Laub (1993), the mother's seeing and not knowing in infancy may be a precondition of her child's knowing and not knowing in late adolescence. It remains unclear, however, whether the early relationship is predictive due primarily to the onset of an internal defensive process in infancy or whether its predictive power resides primarily in enduring patterns of parent-child dialogue that continually reinforce the child's segregated and contradictory mental contents.

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