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Winnicott, D.W. (1960). The Theory of the Parent-Infant Relationship. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 41:585-595.

(1960). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 41:585-595

The Theory of the Parent-Infant Relationship

D. W. Winnicott

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1 This paper, together with Dr Greenacre's paper in this issue, will be the subject of a Discussion at the 22nd International Psycho-Analytical Congress at Edinburgh, July/August 1961.

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The main point of this paper can perhaps best be brought out through a comparison of the study of infancy with the study of the psycho-analytic transference. It cannot be too strongly emphasized that my statement is about infancy, and not primarily about psycho-analysis. The reason why this must be understood reaches to the root of the matter. If this paper does not contribute constructively, then it can only add to the existing confusion about the relative importance of personal and environmental influences in the development of the individual.

In psycho-analysis as we know it there is no trauma that is outside the individual's omnipotence. Everything eventually comes under ego-control, and thus becomes related to secondary processes. The patient is not helped if the analyst says: 'Your mother was not good enough … your father really seduced you … your aunt dropped you.' Changes come in an analysis when the traumatic factors enter the psycho-analytic material in the patient's own way, and within the patient's omnipotence. The interpretations that are alterative are those that can be made in terms of projection. The same applies to the benign

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