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Mahler, M.S. McDevitt, J.B. (1968). Observations on Adaptation and Defense in Statu Nascendi Developmental Precursors in the First Two Years of Life. Psychoanal Q., 37:1-21.

(1968). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 37:1-21

Observations on Adaptation and Defense in Statu Nascendi Developmental Precursors in the First Two Years of Life

Margaret S. Mahler, M.D. and John B. McDevitt, M.D.

We address ourselves to the relationship between two of the four interdependent mental states of equilibrium described by Hartmann—the equilibrium between the individual and the environment, the young child's 'preparedness for average expectable environmental situations and for average expectable internal conflicts' (3p. 55). Although we realize that defensive processes may have the double function of warding off instinctual impulses and of serving adaptation to the external world (3p. 51), there are nevertheless many adaptive phenomena whose function is broader and which do not serve a primarily defensive purpose.

Previous papers have discussed the fact that the 'average expectable environment' to which the infant must at first adapt is the symbiotic milieu that includes the symbiotic partner in the undifferentiated stage. It might be said that during this phase the innate rhythms of the infant adjust automatically to those of the mother, and vice versa (2).

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