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Rocco, M. (1992). Difficulties in Letting Go: A Mother-Child Problem. Bul. Anna Freud Centre, 15(1):75-85.

(1992). Bulletin of the Anna Freud Centre, 15(1):75-85

Difficulties in Letting Go: A Mother-Child Problem

Marigemma Rocco


This is an account of my observations of the development of Sandra, from birth to 15 months, and the way in which she interacted with her mother.

As Winnicott (1960) pointed out, it is important to remember that half the theory of the parent-infant relationship has to do with the infant's journey towards independence and half with the qualities and changes in the mother that meet the developing needs of her baby. With this in mind, I shall describe several factors in the mother-child relationship that seem to have had an impact on Sandra's development. Three aspects appear to have been particularly relevant:

(a)  the impact of the harness needed to correct the baby's hip condition;

(b)  the difficulties in separating from the mother;

(c)  the role of the father.


Mr and Mrs V are not married and had been together for several years before deciding to have a baby. They are in their middle thirties. Mr V is a graphic artist and has a studio where he works all day. He comes home in the evenings. He is a cheerful person, but at times seems to be quite insensitive towards Mrs V and Sandra. He has a brother and a sister but does not have a close relationship with them or with his parents. Mrs V describes him as ‘aloner’, an aspect that has played an important role in their relationship because it is in contrast to Mrs V's liking to be sociable.

Mrs V is an attractive woman, with an art-school training and a diploma in fashion design. She is an only child and does not seem to have a close relationship with her parents although she visits them regularly once a month for a couple of days. She is quite reserved and is at times a difficult person to relate to. She is Sandra's main caretaker, but seems unsure of her own capacities.


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