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Kunstadt, L.P. (1983). Parental Care in Mammals. Psychoanal Q., 52:648-652.

(1983). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 52:648-652

Parental Care in Mammals

Review by:
Lawrence P. Kunstadt

Edited by David J. Gubernick and Peter H. Klopfer. New York/London: Plenum Press, 1981. 459 pp.


When Freud turned from neurology to psychology, he abandoned any immediate hope of explaining behavior in biological terms. Although his biological and medical training continued to assert their influence on his thinking, he quite deliberately treated psychoanalysis as an independent discipline. Over the past century, major changes have occurred within both psychoanalysis and biology. After such a long separation, perhaps it is time for these siblings, reared apart, to meet again.

In particular, it is behavioral biology which should be reintroduced to psychoanalysis. The neurosciences and psychiatry are not unfamiliar to psychoanalysis, although they both have far to go before analytic theory can be explained in their terms. Behavioral biology is less familiar to psychoanalysts, but perhaps at this point in its development, it has more to offer.

Neither of the two books under review was written for psychoanalysts. The Gubernick and Klopfer book was written for professional biologists; it is not clear what the intended audience was for the Hofer book. Gubernick and Klopfer's book is a collection of eleven separate papers; Hofer's is by one author with one theme. The Gubernick and Klopfer book may be opaque to nonbiologists, but it is pleasing in its detail, comprehensiveness, and erudition. The Hofer book is more introductory in nature and suffers from the diffuseness produced by simplification.

That being said, what can psychoanalysts learn from these books? Unlike the impression held by many analysts that behavioral biology concerns itself mainly with descriptions of how animals behave in the wild ("natural history"), contemporary behavioral biology asks the same fundamental questions of behavior that psychoanalysts asks the same fundamental questions of behavior that psychoanalysts ask of the mind: how does development proceed; how is it structured; how do events at one stage affect subsequent development; and, finally, are developmental disturbances capable of amelioration? These questions are answered on the genetic (in the biological sense), physiological, and social levels.

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