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Kennedy, H. (1976). Young Children in Brief Separation—A Critical Review of Five Films by James Robertson and Joyce Robertson. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 57:483-486.

(1976). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 57:483-486

Young Children in Brief Separation—A Critical Review of Five Films by James Robertson and Joyce Robertson

Hansi Kennedy

The last in a series of documentary films on young children's reaction to separation from home while the mother is in hospital for the birth of a second child, has just been released. The film, Lucy, Twenty-One Months, in Foster Care for Nineteen Days, attempts to show us, condensed into 30 minutes, how a young child lives through such a stressful situation, expertly cared for and supported by her fostermother Joyce Robertson, and expertly filmed by the cameraman, James Robertson.

The commentary tells us that Lucy's early development was normal and that she had received adequate mothering. At age 21 months her body control was excellent, she played intelligently and constructively but she did not yet talk or even say 'mummy'. During preparatory interchange visits prior to the separation we get a glimpse of Lucy with her mother both reflecting a rather sombre mood in their almost identical facial expressions; from the commentary we learn that this might be related to mother's slightly depressed mood during the latter stages of the pregnancy. We see the same expression on Lucy's face for the first couple of days following her arrival in the Robertson home; but, contrary to what one might expect, she subsequently becomes increasingly lively and cheerful over the first week in fostercare. There is an increasingly warm interchange between her and the fostermother and Lucy's behaviour and expression reveal a whole range of feelings towards the fostermother, from petulance and anger to gaiety and affection; moreover this change in affective expression is also apparent in relation to her father on his daily visits.

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