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(1956). British Journal of Medical Psychology. XXVIII, 1955: The Depressive Position in Normal Emotional Development. D. W. Winnicott. Pp. 89-100.. Psychoanal Q., 25:624-624.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: British Journal of Medical Psychology. XXVIII, 1955: The Depressive Position in Normal Emotional Development. D. W. Winnicott. Pp. 89-100.

(1956). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 25:624-624

British Journal of Medical Psychology. XXVIII, 1955: The Depressive Position in Normal Emotional Development. D. W. Winnicott. Pp. 89-100.

The 'depressive position' is the phase in normal development of the infant wherein there develops concern for the results of instinctual love (or, as the author puts it, where there occurs a change from 'ruthlessness to ruth'). This concern develops gradually, under certain definite conditions of mothering, during the second half of the first year of the infant's life. The prerequisite for this stage is the success of the previous period of development with the emergence of the infant as a 'whole person'.

Two ways in which the mother functions are significant for evolution of the depressive position. One is the mother's gratification of the infant's need and is related to what the author calls the quiet baby and the 'quiet mother'. The other is the mother as the object of 'assault during phases of instinctual tension'. This corresponds to the infant's excited state. The main function of the depressive position is the child's recognition of the identity of the two mothers and a coming together of these two aspects of the mother. Concurrently there is a realization that the 'quiet mother' was involved in the instinctual attack and has survived. This leads to 'the baby's dawning recognition of the difference between what is called fact and fantasy, or outer and inner reality'. As time goes on the infant learns to tolerate in greater degree both the concern for the attacked object and the instinctual tension itself.

The depressive position is not to be confused with the type of infantile depression described by Spitz (these children have never arrived at the condition required for achievement of the depressive position) or with depression as a clinical mood or symptom.

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Article Citation

(1956). British Journal of Medical Psychology. XXVIII, 1955. Psychoanal. Q., 25:624-624

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