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Peterfreund, E. (1978). Some Critical Comments on Psychoanalytic Conceptualizations of Infancy. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 59:427-441.

(1978). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 59:427-441

Some Critical Comments on Psychoanalytic Conceptualizations of Infancy

Emanuel Peterfreund

There is little need to emphasize the significance of an adequate conceptual approach to cognitive and emotional development in infancy. Psychoanalysis has always had great interest in these issues, as have psychiatry and the behavioural sciences in general. The aim of this paper is to examine the logic of some of the psychoanalytic terms used to characterize infancy. First, I wish to demonstrate that many are unacceptable, or acceptable in only a limited sense. Second, I wish to point out that many of the problems inherent in the psychoanalytic characterizations of infancy stem from difficulties in the current psychoanalytic metapsychology and from two fundamental conceptual fallacies especially characteristic of psychoanalytic thought: the adultomorphization of infancy, and the tendency to characterize early states of normal development in terms of hypotheses about later states of psychopathology.

This paper is another step in a long-range effort (Peterfreund, 1971), (1975a), (1975b); (Peterfreund & Franceschini, 1973) to highlight the confused and anachronistic nature of many current psychoanalytic conceptualizations; and, more important, to point the way to meaningful conceptual approaches for psychoanalysis that are consistent with contemporary scientific thought.

Some typical psychoanalytic characterizations of infancy

A perusal of psychoanalytic literature shows that the infant's world is typically characterized in the following way. In general, psychoanalytic theoreticians of infancy are preoccupied with the origin of the ego.

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