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Mahler, M.S. Gosliner, B.J. (1955). On Symbiotic Child Psychosis—Genetic, Dynamic and Restitutive Aspects. Psychoanal. St. Child, 10:195-212.

(1955). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 10:195-212

On Symbiotic Child Psychosis—Genetic, Dynamic and Restitutive Aspects

Margaret S. Mahler, M.D. and Bertram J. Gosliner, M.D.

It was not until many years after ego psychology had gained its proper place within the framework of psychoanalytic theory that psychoanalysts began to scrutinize the available data of the first fifteen to eighteen months of life (Ribble, Fries, Spitz, and others). Even then the beginnings of the verbal stage of development, the period from eighteen months onward, were little studied, except by Anna Freud, Burlingham, and Bowlby. However, Ernst Kris and his co-workers at Yale are now engaged in systematically studying this period of life.

In the second year of life the infant gradually changes from an almost completely vegetative being, symbiotically dependent on the mother, into a separate individual. He still commands, and obtains, the executive services of this external ego (Spitz, 1951). But he becomes increasingly aware of his own capacities as well as of his own separateness. This apperception is, however, still a very precarious one at twelve to thirty months of age.

During the second year of life it is the maturational growth of locomotion which exposes the infant to the important experience of deliberate and active bodily separation from and reunion with the mother. Furthermore, the normal toddler of one and a half to two and a half years, delights in exploring his environment, however indiscriminate his efforts. From so doing he derives sound narcissistic satisfactions. He discovers and masters ever-increasing segments of his physical surroundings, provided he feels his mother's encouragement and availability.

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