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Murphy, L.B. (1964). Comment on Dr Bowlby's Note. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 45:47-48.

(1964). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 45:47-48

Comment on Dr Bowlby's Note

Lois B. Murphy

I am grateful to Dr Bowlby for his interesting comments, and I hope that out of this discussion some conceptual refinement will emerge. In order to keep within a limited space, I shall focus on what to me is the central point of disagreement—on a problem where there is at the same time much congruence in our respective views. I am dealing with certain of the detailed points in a separate article.

My paper discusses 'some aspects of the first relationship' in a human infant—a relationship which is largely responsible for, and necessary for, the transformation of an initially rather primitive though complicated organism into a child with a human identity. This primitive organism comes into the world with structures and functions which have a phylogenetic history and which share much with the structure and functions of subhuman creatures—more with some than with others. It differs in having much greater flexibility, through its potentiality for learning, imagination, psychic life, and complexity of relationship with the impersonal and personal environment. This has been achieved at the price of decreased smoothness in various aspects of vegetative functioning and self-maintenance which within the adaptive limits characteristic of other species are in the latter more automatic or guaranteed. Thus even sucking, one of the most organized behaviour patterns in a human neonate, often has to improve in efficiency during the first days after birth, and may require assistance from the mother to facilitate the earliest adjustment (in addition to her provision of food).

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