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Parens, H. (1975). Parenthood as a Developmental Phase. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 23:154-165.

(1975). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 23:154-165

Parenthood as a Developmental Phase

Henri Parens, M.D.

Dr. Irwin Marcus introduced the Panel members, noting that Therese Benedek, in a presentation to this Association in 1958, parented the title and theme of this Panel. Marcus set the question of a developmental phase of parenthood in an epigenetic context. He observed that all our basic psychoanalytic concepts, from their inception by Freud, are developmental. Beyond the Oedipus complex, Freud detailed a puberty and climacterium. Of the subsequent contributions in expansion of Freud's original formulation, Marcus could touch on the work of only a few. Spitz refers to phases of development in terms of critical periods and organizers. His theories explicate Freud's theory of the complemental series and of fixation, and generate implications for prevention and therapy. Mahler's formulations of the normal autistic, symbiotic, and separation-individuation phases of development have stimulated a series of panels on "The Experience of Separation-Individuation in Infancy and its Reverberations Through the Course of Life." Moving another step ahead on the continuum into adolescence, Blos has described four developmental tasks of that phase of development: the second individuation, achievement of ego continuity, integration of a sexual identity, and mastery of residual trauma.

Marcus noted that progressive and regressive aspects of developmental phenomena occur throughout the life cycle. The achievement and maintenance of an adult ego identity cannot be regarded as a permanent, unalterable state. Zetzel considered it a basic fact of life that every important maturational challenge presents significant regressive threats. She believed that those with limited symptomatology during a developmental crisis have greater potential for genuine maturity than those who have consolidated regressive defenses in their definitive character structure. Marcus saw in this postulate the suggestion that those with residual partial failures in the resolution of their earlier intrapsychic conflicts have an opportunity for new and better solutions.

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