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(1960). British Journal of Medical Psychology. XXXII, 1959: The Communication of Distress Between Child and Parent. Thomas S. Szasz. Pp. 161-170.. Psychoanal Q., 29:444-445.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: British Journal of Medical Psychology. XXXII, 1959: The Communication of Distress Between Child and Parent. Thomas S. Szasz. Pp. 161-170.

(1960). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 29:444-445

British Journal of Medical Psychology. XXXII, 1959: The Communication of Distress Between Child and Parent. Thomas S. Szasz. Pp. 161-170.

In this theoretical paper the author proposes that the earliest communication pattern established between parent and child in the service of mastering distress serves as a prototype for later social relations. The crying infant induces tension in the parent. This tension then causes the parent to relieve the infant's distress, thus reducing the tension. Parents may be overwhelmed by their inability to relieve the crying infant and this inability may become associated with a sense of their own failure and guilt. The reciprocal reaction is the child's dread of his parents' unhappiness for which he feels responsible and which threatens him with the loss of security of parental care.

Both partners in this communicative network are faced with the problem of defining their boundaries. For the infant this task is a necessary first step toward a series of self-differentiations. For the parent unresolved elements of their own autonomic development are re-experienced. Some specific examples of the liabilities arising out of inability to attain 'mature interdependence' in the parent-child dialogue are illustrated. The physician who is unable to remain

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inactive and tolerate the suffering of a chronically ill patient, the psychiatrist who makes a precipitate commitment of a patient threatening suicide, and a parent's inability to tolerate his child's crying (which may lead to a homicidal attempt to silence the painful sound) have all been unable to satisfactorily achieve individual separateness.

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Article Citation

(1960). British Journal of Medical Psychology. XXXII, 1959. Psychoanal. Q., 29:444-445

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