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Moriarty, D.M. (1962). Early Loss and the Fear of Mothering. Psychoanal. Rev., 49A(1):63-69.

(1962). Psychoanalytic Review, 49A(1):63-69

Early Loss and the Fear of Mothering

David M. Moriarty, M.D.

An excellent review of the psychoanalytic literature on the theory of depression by Rosenfeld,9 the widespread knowledge of the basic writings of Abraham in 1911,1 16162 and 1924,3 Freud's paper on Mourning and Melancholia,5 the papers of Bibring,4 Jacobson6 and Zetzel,10 plus the excellent summary on the theory of depression by Lewin7 and Rochlin's recent paper on the loss complex 8 make a review of this subject unnecessary and beyond the scope of this paper.

The purpose in writing this paper is to briefly present the case history of four patients—one in psychoanalysis and three in psychotherapy—who had in common the fear of mothering and the history of the loss of a sibling in childhood. It is on this particular type of loss and its effect on the capacity to mother that this paper is focused. Two other similar cases which support the views expressed here are not included in this paper for reason fo confidentiality.

Case 1

A 28 year old woman who had been married for two years and who had a son 14 months old, first reported to the out-patient department for psychotherapy because of fears that she would harm her child. This patient, although having phobias relating to death fantasies from the age of nine, managed to get alone quite well and was teaching school until the time she became pregnant. At that time, she developed the fear that the baby would be killed in utero by the cord choking the fetus to death. The patient applied for therapy when her son was 7 months old, which was the exact age at which a younger brother of hers had died when she, the patient, was nine years old.

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