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Furman, E. (1973). A Contribution to Assessing the Role of Infantile Separation-Individuation in Adolescent Development. Psychoanal. St. Child, 28:193-207.

(1973). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 28:193-207

A Contribution to Assessing the Role of Infantile Separation-Individuation in Adolescent Development

Erna Furman


Mahler's concept of separation-individuation has not yet been sufficiently compared with reconstructive analytic material. It has also not been comprehensively discussed from a metapsychological point of view and related to the drive development of the toddler. In spite of this, the concept of separation-individuation has greatly furthered our understanding of early personality development and has been related to mental processes in later developmental phases.

Some authors view adolescent developments as a second individuation (Blos, 1967), i.e., a form of developmental repetition. Some suggest that the term individuation cannot be applied to adolescence (Schafer, 1973) since the giving up of love objects differs from the initial emergence of self and object representations. Clinically there are many similarities and parallels between the toddler and

the adolescent which challenge the analyst to explore more deeply the nature of the relationship.

Two case vignettes serve to illustrate some aspects of adolescent psychic struggles. In the course of the analyses infantile behavioral manifestations and mental contents could be observed and related to their genetic antecedents. The current role of these phenomena appeared to be primarily defensive rather than developmental in the context of the adolescent's task of achieving genital primacy and object removal.

Clinical analytic study of the regressive developmental phenomena, within the total context of the adolescent's personality, will help us to understand better their relation to the separation-individuation phase of infancy. The differences between the toddler's and the adolescent's developmental tasks are so great, however, that the term individuation cannot be applied readily to adolescence.

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