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Mahler, M.S. (1944). Tics and Impulsions in Children: A Study of Motility. Psychoanal Q., 13:430-444.

(1944). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 13:430-444

Tics and Impulsions in Children: A Study of Motility

Margaret Schoenberger Mahler, M.D.

There is a great divergence of opinion on the meaning of tics. They have been variously considered as mere habits, repetitive motions, or compulsive or hysteric symptoms. Their similarity to certain features of organ neuroses and hypochondriacal states has also been noted, and Ferenczi—who pointed out the highly narcissistic make-up of certain tiqueurs—because tics suggested catatonic symptoms, wished to call them by analogy 'cataclonias'. Nevertheless, he also recognized isolated tics as accessory manifestations with no relationship to the rest of the personality.

It is my belief that a better understanding of the tic may be derived from a study of its pathogenesis in children. This report is based partly on the psychoanalysis of children who presented tics and other neurotic motor symptoms, partly on the clinical findings of a research project at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, and also on information regarding behavioristic and experimental psychophysiological phenomena drawn from the works of Myrtle McGraw, Gesell, August Homburger, and many others. These works have the shortcomings of any preponderantly neurophysiological experimental research. They deal essentially with surface phenomena and stress the neurophysiological aspects of behavior. However, they furnish useful points of departure for investigating motility, if this be also considered a psychodynamic resultant of the interactions of instinctual, ego and social environmental factors.

Motility has been explored by many authors, among whom might be mentioned Hartmann, Bally, Landauer, Fenichel and Kubie. The efficiency and rationality of motor conduct is no doubt the most conspicuous characteristic of adult behavior.

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