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Pine, F. (1974). Libidinal Object Constancy: A Theoretical Note. Psychoanal. Contemp. Sci., 3(1):307-313.

(1974). Psychoanalysis and Contemporary Science, 3(1):307-313

Libidinal Object Constancy: A Theoretical Note

Fred Pine, Ph.D.

In this brief note, I shall address myself to two problems: the question of the time of the development of libidinal object constancy, and the functional significance of that achievement. My main point is that the time when certain aspects of libidinal object constancy are possible, given the particular characteristics of the human organism, is quite a different time from that of the individual's ability, functionally, to make full use of the attained object constancy. I also attempt to describe some of the diverse functions served by attained object constancy.

The term “object constancy,” introduced into the psychoanalytic literature by Hartman (1952), is a variant of Piaget's (1937) earlier term “object permanence.” Hartmann's term has become the usual one in psychoanalytic writings and for that reason I shall use it here when referring to the libidinal object. We do not assume that the newborn comes equipped with object representations, nor that such representations are permanently established after the first encounter with the object. Piaget studied the stages in the development of the representations of physical objects—e.g., toys. Psychoanalysts have been interested in the development of constancy in the representations of the libidinal object-the stages in and time of the infant's development of a permanent representation of the mother.


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