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Arundale, J. (1982). Clinical Studies in Infant Mental Health: The First Year of Life: Edited by Selma Fraiberg. London and New York: Tavistock. 1980. Pp. 279.. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 9:243-245.

(1982). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 9:243-245

Clinical Studies in Infant Mental Health: The First Year of Life: Edited by Selma Fraiberg. London and New York: Tavistock. 1980. Pp. 279.

Review by:
Jean Arundale

Psychotherapeutic intervention in the home setting that deals with the most severe of first-year developmental and bonding disruptions—the 'failure-to-thrive infant'—is the focus of this book, which reports the work of Selma Fraiberg and her colleagues at the Child Development Project in Ann Arbor, Michigan. This account of their innovative techniques for joint mother–infant psychoanalytically-based psychotherapy makes fascinating reading from a clinical point of view. Immensely interesting, too, is their record of the ways and means that were used to establish a far-reaching, community-based, infant mental health service.

There are twelve papers, four of which relate the origins and development of the project, the setting-up and operation of the clinic and details of the research and training programmes. The rest are devoted to vivid case studies of the dynamic therapeutic interventions with disturbed, hard-to-reach mothers and their imperilled babies.

The project had its roots in an earlier research team headed by Fraiberg which was also under the auspices of the Department of Psychiatry, University of Michigan Medical School. In 1965, with federal government funding, the team engaged in a longitudinal study of infants blind from birth. They gave the parents developmental guidance and facilitated their relationship with the child for the first two years of its life. At the conclusion of this programme in 1972 they were able to report significant results: there was improvement in the blind children in the areas of attachment, language and sensorimotor skills that brought them closer to sighted child ranges than to those of blind children. Armed with the conviction that intervention in infancy yielded results, and with new grants from the National Institute of Mental Health and the Grant Foundation, the team went on to apply their techniques to a new population: the emotionally impoverished. Their efforts were toward a psychotherapeutic correction of developmental and environmental failures in infancy that are likely to lead to later emotional and mental ill-health.

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