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Kaufman, I.C. (1960). Some Ethological Studies of Social Relationships and Conflict Situations. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 8:671-685.

(1960). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 8:671-685

Some Ethological Studies of Social Relationships and Conflict Situations

I. Charles Kaufman, M.D.


The paper presents data from animal-behavior studies, including original work by the author, which deal with the development of social bonds. "Imprinting" is an important early learned basis of attachment behavior but only in certain species and perhaps not in man.

The anaclitic role of feeding for the development of sexuality and object relations is seen as an important but not exclusive determinant. Comfort in contact and clinging is another important basis of early attachment to an object. Such findings indicate the value of Lorenz's concept of the parent companion as the object, a personal knowledge of whom is built up by virtue of the fact that the eliciting and terminating stimuli for various discrete responses are there united. Bowlby has hypothesized that this mechanism is the basis of the human child's tie to his mother. His hypothesis requires further empirical confirmation. Since the parent-companion relationship is experientially determined, it seems unlikely that there is a primary-object-relations drive.

The author's experiments on chicks indicate the early ontogenetic development of a social bond through social experience. Further, it appears that disruption of the bond by separation produces a state of distress. The relationship of the separation distress to anxiety and depression are speculated upon. Further studies of separation reactions in animals might help clarify the relationship between separation, anxiety, and depression.

Ethological methods of behavioral analysis are described. Behavioral tendencies are inferred from specific action patterns, the causes and functions of which are studied. In social situations of animals it is found that conflicting tendencies are motivated. Among these conflicting tendencies three are especially prevalent—sexuality, aggression, and fleeing. It is suggested that the same is true also of the human, certain of whose behaviors might be better understood if the tendency to flee was more adequately appreciated as being also basic.

The phenomenology of animals in conflict is categorically described, indicating the similarities to human reaction patterns. The

genetic significance of these responses to conflict, as well as of responses to deprivation, is to be found in the fact that such responses may become fixated and continue to appear when the external situation no longer seems to warrant such behavior. This too is compared to human patterns of behavior in health and disease and is considered worthy of further study by psychoanalysts.

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