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Yazmajian, R.V. (1967). Biological Aspects of Infantile Sexuality and the Latency Period. Psychoanal Q., 36:203-229.

(1967). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 36:203-229

Biological Aspects of Infantile Sexuality and the Latency Period

Richard V. Yazmajian, M.D.


Abraham felt that the phylogenetic recapitulation reflecting itself in the oral, anal, urogenital progression of early embryo development was related to the oral, anal, phallic psychological

progression of infantile sexual development. He considered the psychological progressions to be 'parallelisms with biological processes'. The inability to see any tangible relationships forced Abraham to create his 'lag' hypothesis. The phylogenetic recapitulation described by Abraham does not take place once and for all as he thought, but is repeated many times and with the same sequential developmental sweep. Thus, human intra-uterine foetal development and growth has an expanding spiral quality which is characteristic of all mammalian forms of life.

Neither marsupial nor placental mammals complete foetal development in utero; all mammals, including man and other primates, are born with persisting foetal traits, and must complete foetal development outside the uterus. This process in higher placental mammals, especially primates, often requires years: human extrauterine foetal development extends over a period of approximately four to six years. The last great spiraling sweep of the phylogenetic recapitulation occurs during this extrauterine period and follows the oral, anal, urogenital progression outlined by Abraham. Further, this progression coincides with and influences oral, anal, and phallic infantile psychosexual phases as described psychoanalytically. The writer considers that Abraham's essentially philosophic comments about the 'parallels' between early embryo development and infantile sexuality reflect a literal truth. These observations are correlated with the broader concepts which Freud developed from the dual instinct theory.

There is a general impression among psychoanalysts that the biological substrate of the latency period is uniquely human. Previous theories are criticized in the light of modern biology and found to be essentially invalid. Temporally, the end of infantile psychosexuality (in the broadest sense and including the Oedipal period) and the beginning of the latency period coincide biologically as well as psychologically according to the hypothesis of this paper: man's extrauterine foetal development ends at approximately four to six years; he

emerges as a truly miniature adult and slowly enters the latency period. Although varying in length of time, this period of postnatal foetal development occurs in all mammals and is followed by normal growth leading to puberty. Thus, from a strictly biological point of view, man's latency period is not the unique possession of man or even of primates. Man's latency period is viewed as representing an ordinary and normal mammalian phase of prepubertal growth rather than a mysterious period of 'inhibition' or 'retardation' as it has been previously conceptualized. Growth during this phase can be compared to an expanding balloon in contrast to the spiraling quality of growth during the phylogenetic recapitulations extending through ages four to six. It is suggested that this results in a more diffuse and uniform distribution of libidinal energies. The resulting relative decrease in the libidinal energies focused upon the erotogenic zones is considered to be supportive to the psychological defenses established in latency.

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