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Galenson, E. (1964). Comment on Mr Khan's Paper. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 45:279.

(1964). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 45:279

Comment on Mr Khan's Paper

Eleanor Galenson

Mr Khan is concerned here with a certain kind of failure in mothering, and its complex sequelae. As in any circular or transactory process, we immediately introduce some distortion when we examine the effect of the mother on the child, for it is essentially a mutual adaptation with which we are concerned in the mother-child pair. The actions of the mother produce a reaction in the child, which then induces a reaction in the mother, and so on. However, for purposes of discussion, as well as in observational work, we have to begin somewhere. For instance, we agree that one of the mother's roles is that of regulator and selector of the influx of stimuli. Yet we must add immediately that the further regulation and selection will depend, to a certain extent, on the effect which her first selection has had upon the child.

Recognizing, then, that the mother-child relationship is a most complex and intricate one, and never reducible to a simple equation, there are in addition certain periods which would appear to be even more crucial and complicated. From the side of the mother, the neonatal period with its minimal and subtle cues could be most hazardous, and might confuse and disturb an inexperienced mother, whereas the later infancy period might be more crucial when viewed from the standpoint of the child's developmental needs. For example, beginning with the second year of life, developmental processes having to do with separation and object-directed aggression are in the forefront, and would interact with quite different aspects of the mother's personality than those aroused by the neonate.

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