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Weil, A.P. (1970). The Basic Core. Psychoanal. St. Child, 25:442-460.

(1970). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 25:442-460

The Basic Core

Annemarie P. Weil, M.D.


Neonates differ from one another from the very beginning. This is due to variations in their equipment.

Each child is born with a unique physiological equipment, which, in each sphere, allows for a certain span of further development—within constitutionally given limits. The ease of modifiability is also constitutionally given.

The early interaction between the infant's equipment and the mother's attunement results in a basic core, which may range from greater harmony and potential for ego structuring and ego strength to considerable imbalance and vulnerability. The infant begins the symbiotic phase with this basic core, in which the mother's caretaking has already attenuated or aggravated the original trends.

An aggregate of behavioral trends constitutes this varying basic core in different children. These trends can be inferred from the infant's observable behavioral manifestations. They relate to

early physiological and maturational patterning, sensitivity, and responsivity, including a potential for anxiety; precursors of ego development, earliest directedness to the human object, a potential for neutralization, a beginning integrative function, an incipient ego-id balance; and the libido-aggression balance.

Characteristics of the basic core will persist, clinically recognizable as a fundamental layer, although the separation-individuation process and the psychosexual development will intertwine with this basic core in manifold ways and add significant structural and contextural imprints.

The basic core will partially determine individual nuances of the character of healthier persons or the symptomatology of our patients. It is such different nuances in pathology that have sometimes veiled the clinical picture in the greater variety of patients we now see. Considering this basic core, or fundamental layer, in the evaluation of our patients may help to unravel the intertwined development and to clarify some of the often rather diffuse diagnostic aspects—just as understanding and helping parents to understand this basic core may safeguard them from potentially damaging interactions between themselves and their child.

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