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Baudry, F. (1995). The Evolution Of Character Birth To Eighteen Years: A Longitudinal Study. By Sylvia Brody and Miriam G. Siegel. Madison, CT: Int. Univ. Press, 1992, 553 pp., $70.00.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 43:258-261.

(1995). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 43:258-261

The Evolution Of Character Birth To Eighteen Years: A Longitudinal Study. By Sylvia Brody and Miriam G. Siegel. Madison, CT: Int. Univ. Press, 1992, 553 pp., $70.00.

Review by:
Francis Baudry, M.D.

It is one of the strange paradoxes in our field that we assume unquestioningly that the basis of most pathology is laid down in the first two or three years of life, and yet, at least from reconstructive work alone, we have very little hard data to substantiate this essential hypothesis. As our only other source of reliable data is developmental research, the role of longitudinal studies in analysis becomes crucial. They afford us a window on processes of synthesis the workaday clinician can only speculate about. Capable of pointing out areas of knowledge and ignorance, such studies are in good hands a safeguard against oversimplified theories of development.

To put the present volume in perspective, I will first describe various research projects that preceded it. The initial pilot study goes back more than forty years. In 1952 Escalona and Leitch reported on 132 infants at the Menninger Foundation. The aim was to identify (1) types of maternal behavior experienced by normal infants during the oral phase, in the hope of understanding the development of drive derivatives during early infancy, and (2) the conflicts experienced by mothers, in the hope of helping them in their child rearing. The investigators observed the mothers' feeding behavior, including ways of moving and touching, at 4, 12, 20, and 28 weeks. Questions were asked about the connection between anxiety and ego formation, and about id/ego differentiation, among others.

In 1963, Brody and Axelrad initiated a research effort in New York, studying 131 newborn children and their parents from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds. The project focused particularly on the identification of patterns of mothering as shown on films taken of the participant subjects. Seven subgroups were identified along the variables of empathy, control and efficiency. Three were deemed to represent adequate mothering (Group A), while another three were seen as representing various types of pathology (Group B). The seventh subgroup could not be classified. Unfortunately, the researchers did not clearly define their criteria for adequate mothering, beyond the admittedly subjective evaluations made by watching filmed interactions in slow motion.

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