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Hendrick, I. (1936). Ego Development and Certain Character Problems. Psychoanal Q., 5:320-346.

(1936). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 5:320-346

Ego Development and Certain Character Problems

Ives Hendrick

Introduction to the Problem

The psychoanalyst encounters a variety of clinical problems in which not only a conflict of instinct and ego, but a deficiency in the ego-organization is clearly apparent as well. Investigation of these problems has so far yielded inconclusive results. This is due not only to the greater difficulty of these problems, but to a widespread predilection to interpret them in terms of what is much better understood—the dynamics of the transference neuroses.

The fallacy of this approach is its arbitrary assumption that the ego of a schizoid or paranoid character, for example, is organized and functions as Freud has demonstrated in the formation of psychoneurotic syndromes. Though investigators constantly stress that the characteristics of the libido vary at different developmental levels, yet they generally ignore the development and transformations of ego-functions in the first years of life. There is no more obvious platitude than the statement that a two-year-old ego, a three-year-old ego, a five-year-old ego represent different stages of development which affect the organization of all instinctual drives and perceptual experiences. Nevertheless, psychoanalysts habitually discuss the ego's reactions to preoedipal situations as though the ego always reacted to instinct and anxiety as it does after a normal or neurotic resolution of the Oedipus complex.

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