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Mahler, M.S. La Perriere, K. (1965). Mother-Child Interaction During Separation-Individuation. Psychoanal Q., 34:483-498.

(1965). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 34:483-498

Mother-Child Interaction During Separation-Individuation

Margaret S. Mahler, M.D. and Kitty La Perriere, Ph.D.


The first weeks of extrauterine life of the infant were designated as the stage of normal autism by Mahler. This normal autistic phase, from birth until about the second month of life, corresponds to the 'undifferentiated phase' of Hartmann, Kris, and Loewenstein (4). During this phase there is no discernible distinction for the infant between inner and outer reality, nor does there seem to be any distinction for him between himself and his inanimate surroundings.

As the infant gradually passes into the symbiotic phase, he seems to become dimly aware that what relieves his instinctual tensions (hunger and other needs) comes from the outside world, whereas painful accumulation of tension is generated within himself. For this dim recognition to exist there must be, during the symbiotic phase, some rudimentary differentiation of the ego. In the intrapsychic organization of the infant, the boundaries of self and mother are still more or less confluent and fused. They are distinct for him when he is, for a short time, in a state of affect hunger (7), and they disappear again when he experiences gratification and satisfaction.


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