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Jong, A. (1990). Helping Young Children Grow. "I Never Knew Parents Did So Much.": By Erna Furman. New York: International Universities Press, Inc., 1987. 427 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 59:315-317.
(1990). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 59:315-317
Helping Young Children Grow. "I Never Knew Parents Did So Much.": By Erna Furman. New York: International Universities Press, Inc., 1987. 427 pp.
Review by: Allan Jong
Erna Furman has given us a book in which we can observe and experience what is taken for granted by many analysts: Heinz Hartmann's "average expectable environment" and D. W. Winnicott's "good enough mother." Furman discusses childdevelopment as derived from her extensive experience as child observer, nursery school teacher, educator, parent therapist, and child psychoanalyst. It is not a presentation of a comprehensive theory derived from formal observation and research in childdevelopment.
The basic material of the book, which is written clearly in everyday language, has been used successfully for many years in courses on the psychoanalytic theory of childdevelopment for high school seniors. The material has been also used with many groups of parents and professionals at all levels of sophistication at the Cleveland Center for Research and ChildDevelopment. Although the volume is written in nontechnical terms, this does not mean that Furman's premises about childdevelopment or her questions and discussions of issues concerning it are simple or simplistic. She does not eschew complex or controversial ideas, as is illustrated by the following statements: "Nudity is natural. I think children should see their parents in the nude from the start because then they will not think of it as sexual" (p. 325). "Are the aggressive urges really innate or are they a response to frustration?" p. 281).
We may not agree with her views or conclusions, but she states in her introduction that that is all right. She wants the readers to do their own mental work, to see the issues more clearly, to marshal their own thinking and experience, and to pinpoint their areas of uncertainty.
The book is organized into three parts with numerous sections in each. The format is in the nature of a Socratic dialogue with bold headings of topics such as, "What, if any, are the lasting damages of inadequacies, interruptions, or changes in mothering?" (p. 25), followed by Erna Furman's thoughts on the subject.
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