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Barglow, P. Jaffe, C.M. Vaughn, B. (1989). Psychoanalytic Reconstructions and Empirical Data: Reciprocal Contributions. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 37:401-435.

(1989). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 37:401-435

Psychoanalytic Reconstructions and Empirical Data: Reciprocal Contributions

Peter Barglow, M.D., Charles M. Jaffe, M.D. and Brian Vaughn, Ph.D.


Freud (1905), (1917), (1937) throughout his lifetime sought empirical scientific confirmation of the validity of his discoveries. In pursuit of this goal, he persistently emphasized the importance of establishing agreement between analytic reconstructions and the results of naturalistic child observation. The same objective lead Lichtenberg (1983), Emde (1981), (1985), and Stern (1985) to produce detailed evaluations of the impact of infant research findings on analytic developmental propositions. The present paper examines the relation among clinical reconstructions from an analysis developed through transference interpretations, empirical observations originating in the analytic patient's daughter's psychotherapy, and the results of empirical infant research that was being concurrently conducted by two of the authors.

The findings from the clinical analysis of the mother, the psychotherapy of the daughter, and empirical infant research all converged on the same larger causative factor for the daughter's psychopathology—a type of maternal deprivation. Such a confluence of different sources of evidence, each identified by a different method of investigation, provides one kind of validation for psychoanalytic reconstructions, making it possible to provide that "satisfactory degree of certainty" which Freud (1937) called for in the attempt to integrate the patient's "psychic truth" with "actual" or historical truth.

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