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Fajardo, B. (1988). Chapter 6. Constitution in Infancy: Implications for Early Development and Psychoanalysis. Progress in Self Psychology, 4:91-100.

(1988). Progress in Self Psychology, 4:91-100

III Development

Chapter 6. Constitution in Infancy: Implications for Early Development and Psychoanalysis

Barbara Fajardo, Ph.D.

Infant development research has in recent years intrigued psychoanalysts, stimulating new ideas and confronting old assumptions about a “tabula rasa” newborn who is molded by experience and environment. There is now a large body of evidence from developmental studies that support the view of the newborn as a uniquely organized, active participant in its own experience, and even having significant influence in determining the nature of his environment and caretaker responses to him (Scarr and McCartney, 1983). This paper summarizes some preliminary findings of an ongoing research project suggesting that even in the earliest observable preterm development, individual infants make their own unique constitutional contribution to their development and their experience of the environment.

Until very recently, with the books by Lichtenberg (1983) and by Stern (1985), the neonatal period was usually ignored or dismissed by psychoanalysts as prepsychological. Mahler, Pine and Bergman (1975) call this age, to two months postterm, the “autistic period” and bypass it to begin their discussion of development with the “symbiotic period.” They characterize the autistic period by an absence of cathexis and responsiveness to external stimuli. Spitz (1965) is more generous about acknowledging the capacity of the full-term newborn to organize responses to the environment, but he attributes this ability to universally shared, innate, reflexlike behaviors grounded in biological

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