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Freud, A. (1953). Some Remarks on Infant Observation. Psychoanal. St. Child, 8:9-19.

(1953). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 8:9-19

Problems of Early Development

Some Remarks on Infant Observation

Anna Freud

The following remarks were addressed to a group of first-year medical students in Cleveland, Ohio, the first group to receive their training under the new medical curriculum instituted in Western Reserve University in the autumn of 1952. Instead of beginning their medical education in the dissecting room, these students are introduced each to a pregnant mother on the occasion of her visits to the prenatal clinic. They see the mother several times during her pregnancy, they attend at the birth of the baby, and they remain in contact with mother and child subsequently during the whole course of their medical studies. Thus, they are provided with the opportunity to observe the physical and mental growth of a healthy infant from birth onward, as well as the development of the relationship between mother and child.

In addressing the students the author has attempted to restrict her remarks to the most basic facts, assuming that her audience consisted of people unschooled in matters of psychology and in the principles as well as the terminology of psychoanalysis.

The medical student who is introduced to a newborn baby for the purposes of observation and study of mental development may find this experience enthralling and fascinating; on the other hand, he may be disappointed by it. It is a thwarting experience to watch an infant in the first days and weeks of life, if one does not know for what to look. Students may well need some guidance as to the direction which their observations should take, as well as help in grouping the data which they can elicit. They have to understand that, by nature, their field of observation is limited at first. Similar to the human corpse on which medical students used to begin their training, the newborn presents to their watching eye a body only and no mind, the all-important difference lying merely in the fact that this body teems with the phenomena of life. It is the watching and understanding of these phenomena, singly and in their relation to each other, which leads to the first glimpses of a child's mental activity.

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