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Mahler, M.S. Furer, M. (1963). Certain Aspects of the Separation-Individuation Phase. Psychoanal Q., 32:1-14.

(1963). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 32:1-14

Certain Aspects of the Separation-Individuation Phase

Margaret S. Mahler, M.D. and Manuel Furer, M.D.

Study of the normal development in the separation-individuation phase (from the end of the first year through the second and third years of life) was suggested by the cardinal hypothesis concerning symbiotic child psychosis derived from Mahler's studies. This hypothesis states that in symbiotic child psychosis the biologically predetermined maturation of ego apparatuses, together with a concomitant lag in development toward emotional separation-individuation, is experienced as a catastrophic threat by the child in the symbiotic phase of development. There is a cessation of further ego development and fragmentation of the ego seems to ensue from the panic which the potentially psychotic child experiences when confronted with the task of separation-individuation.

Our study of normal infants, ranging in age from six to ten months to three years, has as its focus the elucidation of various aspects of the separation-individuation process. Most studies to date, based on reconstruction and direct observation, have emphasized the child's passive experience of being physically separated from the mother, and have correctly indicated the traumatic effect of this passive experience and its disturbing effect on personality development. From our experience, however, it would appear that the separation process of the child from the mother is the prerequisite for normal individuation.

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