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Bowlby, J. (1960). Symposium on 'Psycho-Analysis and Ethology'—Ii. Ethology and the Development of Object Relations. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 41:313-317.

(1960). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 41:313-317

Symposium on 'Psycho-Analysis and Ethology'—Ii. Ethology and the Development of Object Relations

John Bowlby

It is now eight years since my interest was first aroused in ethology. At that time, having reviewed the evidence that experiences of deprivation of maternal care and separation from the mother figure can sometimes have very adverse effects on personality development, I was searching for ways of understanding better the processes likely to be at work. It was Lorenz's work on the following responses of goslings which first caught my imagination, as it has that of so many others. From this time forward the further I read and the more ethologists I met the more I felt a kinship with them. Here were first-rate scientists studying the family life of lower species who were not only making observations that were at least analogous to those made of human family life but whose interests, like those of analysts, lay in the field of instinctive behaviour, conflict, and the many surprising and sometimes pathological outcomes of conflict. May it not be, I thought, that in this recent biological work lay some of the ideas on instinct which Freud had always hoped biology would one day provide for psycho-analysis?

Since then I have explored the matter more fully and have had to acclimatize myself to several sharp changes in ethological theory. In another paper of this symposium Kaufman has described some of these. The one to which I found it most difficult to accustom myself was the abandonment of Lorenz's hydrodynamic theory, whereby an instinctual response was conceived as becoming active when a sufficient quantity of reaction-specific energy had accumulated, and its replacement by the concept of a response system which is activated by one complex mechanism that takes account of both internal and external stimuli and is switched off by another and similar mechanism.

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