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Masur, C. (2009). Parent-Infant Psychotherapy. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 57(2):467-473.

(2009). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 57(2):467-473

Panel Report

Parent-Infant Psychotherapy

Corinne Masur

As Ruth Fischer pointed out in her introduction to this panel, an emphasis on the importance of early experience was part of the foundation of psychoanalysis. Yet infant observation and direct work with infants were considered irrelevant to the field in its early years. However, burgeoning interest in the 1950s and 1960s by Anna Freud, Melanie Klein, Donald Winnicott, Margaret Mahler, Fred Pine, John Bowlby, René Spitz, and Annie Bergman and later by Selma Fraiberg, John and Erna Furman, Daniel Stern, Peter Fonagy, and others brought change to psychoanalysis. Following a period of controversy, infant observation came to be considered informative and, eventually, necessary. Attachment theory and ideas about the separation-individuation process in infancy became more widely known. Ideas generated by infant research were met with interest rather than skepticism, and findings began to be integrated into psychoanalytic theory. Beebe, Lachmann, Tronick, and others began the microanalysis of interaction in mother-infant pairs, which led to increased understanding of mutual regulation within the dyad, as well as of a multiplicity of other relational processes. Advances in neuroscience led to further understanding that brain development and attachment relationships mutually influence each other.

This progress in the field led us to an even greater appreciation of the importance of the earliest mother-infant relationship; the mother's relational style, the degree of influence of intergenerational patterns, her ability to regulate her own emotional and physiological states and to help the infant do the same, her capacity for reflective function, empathic responsiveness, and attunement-all affect the infant's development of the capacity for self-regulation, reflective functioning, responsiveness, empathy, and the like.

When there is disturbance in the early mother-infant relationship, the consequences for the infant may be dire.

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