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Kahne, M.J. (1967). On the Persistence of Transitional Phenomena Into Adult Life. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 48:247-258.

(1967). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 48:247-258

On the Persistence of Transitional Phenomena Into Adult Life

Merton J. Kahne

In 1953 Winnicott introduced the terms transitional object and transitional phenomena to deal with certain more or less regularly occurring observable events in the maturation of the young infant. As a part of his rapidly developing personal pattern of hand-mouth stimulation and before the crystallization of his later fondness for a particular stuffed animal or toy, the young child may commonly be observed to have a part of a sheet, a blanket, or other bit of soft cloth or material included in his fingers-and-thumbs-in-the-mouth activities. Usually this is accompanied by various noises, babbling, musical sounds, etc. The infant seems particularly attached to it and it gradually becomes a part of the caressing aspect of his oral self-stimulation. Soon some part of these events, either the material itself or the noises or gestures associated with the events, is noticeably important in the process of going to sleep. The phenomena are also very much in evidence when the infant is anxious, fatigued, threatened with deprivation, or lonely. Many mothers intuitively grasp the importance of this possession for the infant, keeping it handy for times of stress and even avoid washing it, lest in altering any aspect of the total sensory configuration, it loses its value to the child.

The onset of this developmental pattern is deliberately kept somewhat vague—Winnicott mentions a span of 4 to 12 months to emphasize the transitional character of the phenomena. There is no noticeable difference in the occurrence of these events in boys as contrasted with girls.

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