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Kennedy, H. (1984). The ‘Baby at the Breast’ Experience: Memory or Fantasy? Some Further Thoughts on Reconstruction. Bul. Anna Freud Centre, 7(1):15-24.

(1984). Bulletin of the Anna Freud Centre, 7(1):15-24

The ‘Baby at the Breast’ Experience: Memory or Fantasy? Some Further Thoughts on Reconstruction

Hansi Kennedy

By highlighting the complex early interactions between infant and mother, experimental psychologists and researchers have provided important new information about the behavioural potentialities of infants. This information has significant bearing on our understanding of ‘sensitive periods’ for ‘bonding’ and for establishing early modes of communication, which may lead to changes in the handling of infants.

We must, however, seriously question whether these complex interactions between infant and mother can be designated ‘object relationships’ in spite of the experimental evidence which suggests that distinct perceptual schemata of ‘self and other’ begin to form in the earliest months of life. Experimental proof of the infant's sensory and motor capacities, and a predisposition to make self-other differentiation from birth tells us nothing new about the infant's subjective experiences of self and object. It does not suggest that the infant has meaningful awareness of his ‘interactions with other’ qua other, or that he has intentionality. It tells us that the infant is biologically ‘programmed’ to interact in those specific ways which may facilitate and influence the development of the psychological relationship. However, the processes involved in the building up of the psychological relationship, with the differentiation of self and object that this implies, requires considerable ego maturation and structuralization.

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