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Wisdom, J.O. (1977). A Phase of Depression in a Six-Months-Old Boy. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 58:375-377.

(1977). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 58:375-377

A Phase of Depression in a Six-Months-Old Boy

J. O. Wisdom

The following sequence of observations concerns the eldest of a family, a little boy. The details were noted by the father at the time. Their significance lies on their bearing on hypotheses about loss, depression, working through and integration; and in addition on the relationship between theory and observation.

The first six months were relatively uneventful. Then for a few (about three or four) days the little boy's cry carried a dismal note which, if it occurred in an adult, would instantly be put down to grief or depression. Moreover, he could not stay even in the presence of his mother and father without crying to be picked up. He had to be held or carried. When he was put down after being carried about for a while, this crying would begin again at once.

Allow me to sketch in the background. The family had just gone on holiday, but without the third person the little boy was accustomed to, namely the family nanny, who was a nannie in the best old-fashioned sense. She was away elsewhere. The family arrived at the little boy's grandmother's, where he was looked after both by his mother and his granny. He got on very well with his granny and got to know her in some degree over the course of a week. The family then left for a cottage. (To interpolate a conjecture at this point, one might suppose that he felt he had lost one person, had found another, and though he knew her less well and she mattered less to him, he had lost her too, and might well be wondering in the infantile equivalent to an adult doubt, 'Whom am I going to lose next?') In fact, he clung to his mother in a new way (afraid that perhaps he would lose her next?).

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