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Resch, R.C. (1976). On Separating as a Developmental Phenomenon: A Natural Study. Psychoanal. Contemp. Sci., 5:207-269.

(1976). Psychoanalysis and Contemporary Science, 5:207-269

On Separating as a Developmental Phenomenon: A Natural Study

Ruth C. Resch, Ph.D.

Throughout life, separation appears as a succession of developmental tasks. From the infant's early emotional attachments to his family emanate those threads of development that eventuate in peer relationships. As early as the latency years, friendships, interests, and activities become increasingly separate from the family, less and less linked to it. In the school years teacher-student relationships support, distinct from the family, many aspects of autonomous ego development.

The major separation tasks of adolescence are widely recognized; those of adulthood, less so. The ending of formal education, the successive jobs, have different separation meanings and require different adjustments with each termination and new beginning. The recapitulation of the growth-separation process in sons and daughters resonates in the lives of parents. And, of course, in later life there are multiple variants of final separations and readjustments—the death of intimates, retirement, one's mode of approach to one's own death—as well as the more hidden separation tasks implicit in changing goals, hopes, and values over a person's life.

Thus the developmental task of moving to new phases of life and separating from old ones is repeated over and over in different forms. Differentiation of self from others and the capacity to part from the maternal figure are but the earliest forms.

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