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Kelman, N. (1950). Character Development in Young Children. Am. J. Psychoanal., 10(1):5-17.

(1950). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 10(1):5-17

Character Development in Young Children

Norman Kelman

All psychoanalytic theory recognizes the fundamental influence of early life experiences as the genetic basis of character development. With Horney's recent formulation of the Real Self, it is evident that the great damage done the child in these early years is the warping or dismantlement of his essential core—of his anchorage and base of operation—and the erection of a neurotic superstructure and a false image of Self.

This paper will attempt to focus on two basic questions: 1) What are the essentials in the atmosphere of the interpersonal relations surrounding the child, which assist growth in a constructive direction?

2) What are the essentials in the nature of the child in the early months and years which make his growing so dependent on the outside?

In another paper I suggested that it was important for the analyst to be close to his own middle so that he might utilize all his resources in treating the patient. The same factor obtains for a person observing children. Without it, our tendency is to observe some aspects of the child while overlooking others, thus missing his wholeness. Furthermore, if we have the tendency to need final answers, we may take one instrument such as our projective tests, and draw premature, incomplete conclusions. Or, if our theory is a limited one—e.g. a mechanical behaviouristic orientation—we may be able to make a great many observations, yet fail to get a picture of the whole child and his essence.

How does one view the whole child? The answer to this can only be approximated.

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