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Fonagy, P. (1993). Psychoanalytic And Empirical Approaches To Developmental Psychopathology: An Object-relations Perspective. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 41S(Supplement):245-260.

(1993). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 41S(Supplement):245-260

Psychoanalytic And Empirical Approaches To Developmental Psychopathology: An Object-relations Perspective

Peter Fonagy, Ph.D.

This paper outlines common ground between psychoanalytic ideas and recent work in developmental psychopathology. Research is described which examines the impact of the parents' internal working models of relationships on the child's quality of attachment. This work suggests that each parent's early attachment experiences contribute to a model of relationships, affecting all subsequent relationships including their capacity to respond sensitively to their child. This in turn crucially influences the child's security of attachment to each of them. However, this is only a partial explanation of the well-known continuities in attachment patterns across generations, particularly the transmission of abuse. It is clear that while certain individuals repeat adverse or abusive experiences with their own children, others are able to find a more adaptive resolution. It is suggested that what particularly distinguishes resilient individuals from those who remain damaged and damaging is a capacity to reflect on mntal experience, perhaps allowing the child to modify negative working models in later relationships. In other cases, the capacity may be inhibited as a way of defending the developing self against the impact of malevolence and abuse. The phenomena of borderline personality disorder may be rooted in a distortion of this reflective capacity.

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