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Richter, H. (1976). The Role of Family Life in Child Development. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 57:385-395.

(1976). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 57:385-395

The Role of Family Life in Child Development

Horst-Eberhard Richter

Sometimes a value judgement is implicit in the formulation of a question. And in this sense the question contained in the subject of my paper might imply the judgement that the contribution of the family to the development of the child is more important than the contribution of the child to the development of the family. Indeed, it is generally accepted as a matter of course that the family should give priority to the welfare of the child. The psychoanalyst, however, must accept the fact that in a family everyone unconsciously invokes the aid of the other members in order to further his own development. Every member of a family asks unconsciously: what do the others signify for me? Even the parents wish to develop further, indeed they have no option if they are to be equal to the tasks of the later phases of their lives. And nothing is easier for them than to exploit their children as a means of simplifying their own further development, or of freeing themselves from the pressure of hitherto unresolved problems. Even though nearly all parents subscribe consciously to the principle that they should adjust their educational behaviour to accord first and foremost with the needs of the child, we know with certainty that most of them in practice fall short of this intention. Bornstein (1934) formulated the general experience that parents act out unrecognized unconscious tendencies more readily with their children than with anyone else. And this is true not only of severely taxed, unstable, overworked parents, 'but also of healthy, clear-thinking parents who are well-intentioned towards their children; it happens not only to the unanalysed educator, but also to those who have achieved through personal analysis greater familiarity with the processes of their unconscious'.

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