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Brinich, P.M. (1983). The Mental and Social Life of Babies: How Parents Create Persons. By Kenneth Kaye. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1982. Pp. 289.. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 10:482-484.

(1983). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 10:482-484

The Mental and Social Life of Babies: How Parents Create Persons. By Kenneth Kaye. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1982. Pp. 289.

Review by:
Paul M. Brinich

This is an extraordinarily valuable book for psychoanalysts interested in the mental development of infants and in the development of the self. While based upon academically empirical data it avoids the fractioning of experience into isolated, meaningless bits. At the same time it does not avoid important philosophical questions about the self, its functions, and (especially) its creation.

The main points of the book can be put very briefly, though this does no justice to the elegance of the author's illustrations and reasoning. First, Kaye argues that the evolutionary pre-adaptation of infant to parents and vice versa is only a starting point in the mental and social life of babies. He articulates a view of the infant-parent relationship which sees the infant as an 'apprentice' to the parent. Kaye assumes that the infant initially has no social skills or consciousness; however, from the very beginning his parents act 'as if' the infant has both understanding and intentions. At first the infant can play no part in his interactions with his parents beyond the automatic responses based on neurologically programmed behaviours and rhythms. Despite this limitation, Kaye's research demonstrates that parents still manage to 'interact' with their infants; they do this by responding for their infants, by playing out both sides of a more 'mature' interaction which is initially quite beyond the infant's comprehension or abilities.

Here is how Kaye puts it:

by adjusting to the on-off cycles of infant attention mothers succeed in creating consistent, recurring mini-sequences of events, which the infant in turn responds to and comes to anticipate in consistent ways.

[This is a summary or excerpt from the full text of the book or article. The full text of the document is available to subscribers.]

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