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Blau, A. (1962). The Theory of the Parent-infant Relationship—Contributions to Discussion. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 43:249-250.

(1962). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 43:249-250

The Theory of the Parent-infant Relationship—Contributions to Discussion

Abram Blau


These two stimulating papers by Greenacre and Winnicott on the parent-infant relationship further the need of adding direct prospective studies of infant and child development to the traditional psycho-analytic indirect retrospective approach. Both speakers present many ideas to guide research. For some years in the Child Psychiatry Division of the Department of Psychiatry of the Mount Sinai Hospital we have been studying full-term premature neonates and their parents in follow-up studies for varying periods. I wish to comment on a few questions that seem pertinent. What is the significance of the neonate's own original behavioural state or congenital mode of reaction upon the development of the mother-child relationship? Is the life instinct and the capacity to libidinize and cathect objects innate, or is it, at least partially, a postnatal derivative of the mother-child relationship? Are the so-called autonomous ego functions purely independent developments, or rather innate potentialities whose fruition depends upon environmental stimulation and emotional support?

Though both authors rightly stress the maternal factor, we should also consider the influence of the infant himself. A relationship is a two-way street, and the infant's reactions also affect those of the mother. New young mothers show little that can be considered true innate maternal instinct.

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