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Drake, N. (1993). From fetus to child: an observational and psychoanalytic study. By Allesandra Piontelli. No. 15 in the New Library of Psychoanalysis ed. Spillius. Routledge. Pp 260.. Psychoanal. Psychother., 7(3):283-284.
    

(1993). Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, 7(3):283-284

From fetus to child: an observational and psychoanalytic study. By Allesandra Piontelli. No. 15 in the New Library of Psychoanalysis ed. Spillius. Routledge. Pp 260.

Review by:
Nollaig Drake

In this book, Dr Piontelli has combined her considerable skills and multiple trainings in medicine, neuropsychiatry, child psychotherapy, and psychoanalysis to produce a remarkable pioneering study. She uses ultrasonic scanning to observe eleven fetuses in utero, and follows their development after birth with the traditional method of infant observation developed by Esther Bick, but for an extended period of up to four years. In addition, Piontelli describes the psychoanalytic psychotherapy of one of these children, and the psychoanalysis of several other very young children whose behaviour gave strong indications of a continuing preoccupation with their prenatal experiences.

Although babies have always been readily available for observation in everyday life, it was mainly with the advent of psychoanalysis that we began to look with greater interest at infancy, and to formulate specific theories about infant development. A lively debate continues to unfold in relation to many of these theories, as new research findings emerge from different but related disciplines. Piontelli's detailed work extends the boundaries of this exploration and discussion, and is unique in the combination of observational methods it draws upon. She emphasises the importance of the researcher's state of mind in approaching new terrain, and characterises it as one of open-mindedness to whatever may emerge, a freedom from preconceptions, insofar as that is possible. It is in this spirit that Piontelli presents her findings, seeing them as a necessary preliminary observational phase, which could lead to the development of some tentative hypotheses requiring further investigation.

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