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Davison, S. (1994). Baby Observation: Emotional Relationships During the First Year of Life: By Manuel Pérez-Sánchez. Perthshire: Clunie Press. 1990. Pp. 219 + vii.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 75:643-644.

(1994). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 75:643-644

Baby Observation: Emotional Relationships During the First Year of Life: By Manuel Pérez-Sánchez. Perthshire: Clunie Press. 1990. Pp. 219 + vii.

Review by:
Susan Davison

This book was conceived as a homage to Esther Bick, originator of the Infant Observation Course at the Tavistock Clinic, London. It reports, month by month, the unfolding of a naturalistic observation of a baby 'Charles' during the first year of his life. He was born into a middle-class Spanish family with three elder siblings. His parents are 'people dedicated to the care of their children, although sometimes hampered by their own difficulties' (p. i). In his Introduction, the author confesses both his initial enthusiasm to share a vivid and exceptional experience and his hesitation as to how to do justice to the complexity of it (the actual observation appears to have been completed nearly 20 years ago). However, in view of the enormous influence Bick's innovation has had on the training of psychotherapists and psychoanalysts throughout the world, a commentary, based on the author's study sessions with her, offers a valuable exposition of her work; albeit, as he says, refracted through his own memory and understanding of it.

The combination of weekly unobtrusive visits to the baby's home, the careful recording of all that can be remembered of the hour's observations and the reporting of these observations to a weekly seminar for comment and interpretation has become a major educational tool. It closely mirrors the psychoanalytic method, which contains a central paradox: on the one hand, it aspires to accurate observation, without preconceptions, with a focus on the subjective experience and unconscious commentary of the mother, infant, and other members of the family; yet, on the other hand, these observations are informed, and must to a degree be shaped, by theory. One function of the exercise is to develop the skills of an observer, to sense the meaning and emotional impact of the family interactions, and to abstain from activity prejudicial to the observation. The didactic function of the exercise is more problematic.

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