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Riviere, J. (1936). On the Genesis of Psychical Conflict in Earliest Infancy. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 17:395-422.

(1936). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 17:395-422

On the Genesis of Psychical Conflict in Earliest Infancy

Joan Riviere

My object in this paper is to attempt a short general formulation of the earliest psychical developmental processes in the child, that is, of the problems of oral sadistic impulses and their attendant anxieties, and the fundamental defence-mechanisms against them employed by the ego at this stage of development, with special reference to the defensive functions of projection and introjection.

It would appear that fuller understanding and knowledge of the operation of these factors in the first year or two of life throws considerable light on the whole of early development, and thus clarifies some of the obscurity hitherto existing in regard to ego-development and the genetic origin of the super-ego, together with the relation of these to infantile sexuality and libido-development. Any claim that psycho-analysis may make to understand the ego-structure of adults and older children necessarily implies the possibility of tracing its development genetically back to its earliest roots. An understanding of the anxieties and defences which arise in the ego as a result of the child's earliest object-relations must therefore be of special importance for the whole of psycho-analytic work. This orientation of recent work in no way


1 This paper was read before the Vienna Psycho-Analytical Society, May 5, 1936, and is one of the Exchange Lectures now being arranged by the British and Vienna Societies. The topics of oral sadism, projection and introjection, which I have dealt with particularly, were especially raised by R. Wälder in his previous paper before the British Psycho-Analytical Society in November, 1935.

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