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Bowlby, J. (1958). The Nature of the Child's Tie to his Mother. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 39:350-373.

(1958). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 39:350-373

The Nature of the Child's Tie to his Mother

John Bowlby

Psycho-Analysts are at one in recognizing the child's first object relations as the foundation stone of his personality: yet there is no agreement on the nature and dynamics of this relationship. No doubt because of its very importance, differences are sharp and feelings often run high. In this paper I am taking it for granted that today we are all agreed on the empirical fact that within 12 months the infant has developed a strong libidinal tie to a mother-figure and that our differences lie in how this has come about. What in fact are the dynamics which promote and underlie this tie?

My plan will be to begin by describing very briefly four alternative views which in greater or less degree of purity are to be found in the psycho-analytic and other psychological literature and to sketch a fifth which I believe may account more adequately for the data. I shall then attempt to assess what have been and are the views advanced in their writings by a number of leading analysts.

Before elaborating the view which I favour it will be necessary to discuss in rather summary fashion, first, some notions, including those of Piaget, regarding the development of perception and cognition and, secondly, some of the more recent theories of instinctual behaviour. Indeed, in writing it I have wondered whether this paper should not have been preceded by three others—one on cognitive development, a second on instinct, and a third on the comparative advantages and disadvantages on the one hand of direct observation of infants and on the other of reconstructions based on the psycho-analysis of older subjects.

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