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Freeman-Carroll, N. (2015). The Origins of Attachment: Infant Research and Adult Treatment, by Beatrice Beebe and Frank Lachmann, Routledge, New York, 2014, 231pp.. Am. J. Psychoanal., 75(4):464-466.

(2015). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 75(4):464-466

The Origins of Attachment: Infant Research and Adult Treatment, by Beatrice Beebe and Frank Lachmann, Routledge, New York, 2014, 231pp.

Review by:
Nancy Freeman-Carroll, Psy.D.

Psychoanalytic theories have always tried to imagine the baby. We wonder, while listening to adults, what were they like as children, or as infants? Who was their mother and how did she care for them? Our ideas about the baby, its mother and the kind of loving care that we imagine will best support development have shifted over the decades, reflecting the multiple psychoanalytic cultures that now co-exist.

For many years, an imagined infant, seen through the lens of adult experience, outweighed the evidence of behavioral observation in psychoanalytic theories. This was the case for cognitive psychology as well. In Before Speech (1979), Bullowa remembers that as late as her “medical training” the infant was believed to be born unable to speak or see; scientists were slow to notice that the baby communicates long before it can talk. In her words, “Of course most mothers know otherwise but scientists and other ‘experts’ haven't always taken them seriously” (p. 1). I do believe mothers experience something of the innate capacity for communication observable at birth, although they also understand the infant's self emerges over the first weeks and months. Perhaps science and psychoanalytic theory were imbedded in fantasies of early relational experience, notably ignoring the infant's perception and contribution, a way of becoming known.

Cognitive science shifted, and psychoanalysis followed when the study of how communication begins was not limited to language development, and instead included the wonderful range of non-verbal communication that is described by the authors. The subtleties and complexities of non-verbal communication are central to their work and the impact of infant research on psychoanalytic theory and practice.

An excellent review of the breadth of current understanding of infant capacities is included in Part I. We now know so much about how infants make sense of the world and how they participate and communicate in the relationships that sustain them. Findings from infant cognitive, social, and perceptual developmental research have changed the game of psychoanalytic theory building and Beebe and Lachmann translate these changes by documenting the construction of self and relationship in pre-verbal infancy.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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