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Yorke, C. (1988). Some Thoughts on Pre-Oedipal Development: A ‘Contemporary Freudian’ View. Brit. J. Psychother., 4(4):436-446.

(1988). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 4(4):436-446

Theoretical Concepts: The Child's Psyche III

Some Thoughts on Pre-Oedipal Development: A ‘Contemporary Freudian’ View

Clifford Yorke

Two things have to be said at the start of this brief account of early child development. The first is that only a few selected issues, of a vast subject to which countless studies have been devoted over very many years, can be touched on. The second is the need to bear in mind that much controversy exists within the broad framework of psychoanalytic thinking, not only between but within different groups of workers. Although what is set out below could perhaps be broadly regarded as a contemporary Freudian outlook on certain issues of pre-oedipal development, the author cannot claim to speak for anyone except himself.

The Earliest Weeks

We do not know what a baby experiences in the first weeks of life. We can make careful observations and draw inferences from them, but there is no way in which we can directly confirm whether our inferences are correct. We cannot reconstruct this period with any reliability from the psychoanalysis of adults nor, for that matter, from the analysis of a child who has acquired sufficient speech to make an analysis viable. Older children can rarely recall anything before the second year, as Freud (1899) long ago observed; and even memories of this kind may be falsified in retrospect. Furthermore, earlier experiences change in significance as development proceeds and may be altered in recollection by later conflicts. The recollections of adults in analysis and the reconstructions made by the analyst on the basis of sessional material can never be more than approximations.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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