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Sandler, A. (1977). Beyond Eight-Month Anxiety. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 58:195-207.

(1977). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 58:195-207

Beyond Eight-Month Anxiety

Anne-Marie Sandler

For many years psychoanalytic child-observers have agreed that the overt appearance of a definite reaction to strangers can be seen in the infant at about the age of eight months. Some workers have noted this type of reaction much earlier (e.g. Ambrose, 1961); (Wolff, 1963) and there are, of course, great variations in its intensity, duration and in the particular form which it takes. The ideas in this paper take as their point of departure the concept of eight-month anxiety (or stranger anxiety) observed and written about by René Spitz, with whose name the concept of eight-month anxiety is indissolubly linked (1950), (1965a). Following a discussion of some aspects of this phenomenon I shall present clinical material from an adult psychoanalytic case in order to demonstrate a striking correspondence between an adult mode of functioning and the 'stranger anxiety' of the infant. What is perhaps of special interest are the technical implications of viewing a particular type of anxiety in an adult patient as paralleling eight-month anxiety.

In his developmental theory Spitz lays a great deal of emphasis on what he has called the dialogue (1963), (1964), (1965b), the interaction and mutual responsiveness to cues, which occurs between the infant and his mother. The child's initial behaviour is seen as being based on its biological needs and reactions, to which the mother responds in a way which must leave its mark on the infant.

By the age of three months or before, the child shows the well-known smiling response(Spitz & Wolf, 1946); (Spitz, 1950), (1965a).

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