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Novick, K.K. (1986). Talking with Toddlers. Psychoanal. St. Child, 41:277-286.

(1986). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 41:277-286

Talking with Toddlers

Kerry Kelly Novick

IN THIS PAPER I WILL DESCRIBE SOME CLINICAL WORK WITH A TODdler and her parents to illustrate a somewhat neglected area of preventive intervention. Work with the G. family gave rise to some questions and thoughts regarding the role of speech in early object relations and ego development, and to an attempt to amalgamate puzzling clinical phenomena with psychoanalytic knowledge and recent research in infant development.

Gina, aged 16 months, was brought by her parents for an evaluation because she had been waking in the night crying inconsolably for up to an hour. During these episodes she did not appear to be fully awake; she would not accept comfort from her father at all, did not seem to respond to her mother with recognition, but cried and kicked until she "wore herself out." Needless to say, her parents were also worn out and very distressed by Gina's suffering and their inability to intervene effectively.

Gina's parents were devoted, conscientious, middle-aged schoolteachers who had tried for many years to conceive their own child. They adopted Gina when she was 4 months old and adored her from the first moment, even though she arrived at the airport screaming furiously and refusing a bottle. She cried angrily in the same way when frustrated or in pain thereafter and the parents felt that there was grieving in her tone at such moments. Gina suffered repeated ear infections, which led to her having tubes inserted surgically in her ears at the age of 13 months.

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