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Murphy, L.B. (1973). Some Mutual Contributions of Psychoanalysis and Child Development. Psychoanal. Contemp. Sci., 2(1):99-123.

(1973). Psychoanalysis and Contemporary Science, 2(1):99-123

Some Mutual Contributions of Psychoanalysis and Child Development

Lois Barclay Murphy, Ph.D.


The gulf, or communication gap, between psychoanalysis and child development from the 1930s to the 1960s is hard to understand, as well as unfortunate for both disciplines. It was a leader in child development—G. Stanley Hall— who invited Freud to the United States for his first lectures in 1909. And it was a psychoanalyst, Siegfried Bernfeld (1925), who in the twenties published a major book on The Psychology of the Infant. Around the same time and later, the great child analyst, Susan Isaacs, was receptively reading studies in the field of child development (1933, 1949).

Granted the preoccupation of developmental psychology with normative studies and the careful delineation of maturational sequences, it is hard to understand how observers of infants and children could have paid so little attention to the evidence of pleasure and pain so obvious in reaction to their manipulation of infants—not to mention the dynamic and unconscious influences reflected in the individuality of children's responses to tests long before projective methods focused on these forces. And it is equally hard to understand how a major psychoanalyst like Glover (1947) could have blandly implied, even in the forties, that before the age of six months nothing much happens in the infant except eating and sleeping.

Whatever the nature of the blinders that disrupted the process of mutual communication which had begun so early and with such promise of enriching both disciplines, the situation has been changing for the better in the last decade.

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