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Cohen, D.J. Marans, S. Dahl, K. Marans, W. Lewis, M. (1987). Analytic Discussions with Oedipal Children. Psychoanal. St. Child, 42:59-83.

(1987). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 42:59-83

Analytic Discussions with Oedipal Children

Donald J. Cohen, M.D., Steven Marans, M.S., Kirsten Dahl, Ph.D., Wendy Marans, M.S. and Melvin Lewis


In this paper we have described an ongoing research project involving play and communication in 4- to 6-year-olds. The children

are seen for three 45 minute play sessions by a child analyst who is presented with no information other than what the child presents in the sessions. The sessions are videotaped and then analyzed from psycholinguistic and psychoanalytic perspectives. The first phase of this research focused on normal children and provided the material for this report; ongoing and future studies include children with various types of developmental difficulties (including anxiety and disruptive disorders).

In spite of these limitations in the nature and number of sessions, the children, like Sam, have revealed themselves to a remarkable degree. We believe that these experimental play sessions, informed by psychoanalytic understanding, may permit us to understand in greater depth the ways in which material emerges during a session and how this material conveys latent structures and fantasy configurations of the child's mind. In addition, we hope that by rigorously analyzing the child's modes of communication, we will be able to make more explicit the methods of observation and data employed by the child analyst in his constructions of the child's mental life.

To a degree that is not possible in the analysis of adults, where action is constrained and language conventionalized, the fantasies in child analysis are presented with an openness and freedom of association and a vitality in presentation. Here, the oedipal fantasy can be studied before it is adulterated. Study of the structure of research hours must not be confused with the understanding of the hours and process of analytic therapy, but the ability to focus on research hours with greater precision because of their experimental simplicity may help increase our understanding both of the structure of hours during the course of clinical psychoanalysis and of the mind of the child.

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