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Harrison, A.M. Tronick, E.Z. (2007). Response to Commentaries. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 55(3):891-896.

(2007). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 55(3):891-896

Response to Commentaries Related Papers

Alexandra M. Harrison and Edward Z. Tronick

We are grateful to Judith Chused for her close reading of our paper and for her intelligent and thoughtful comments. Although we agree with her in the main, her review suggests the need for us to clarify two points.

The first is in response to Chused's “disagreement” with us about whether adults and adolescents communicate primarily in abstract language, in contrast to young children and infants, who use more nonverbal communication. Chused states, “Although there is much ‘talk' in the analyses of older individuals, much [meaning] is also communicated implicitly, nonverbally, in all analyses.” We agree with Chused that adolescents and adults also communicate nonverbally in important ways. Our intention was not to minimize the nonverbal communication of adults, but rather to emphasize the fact that no matter what the mode of communicationlanguage, gestures, postural change—communication takes place and meaning gets made. We also wished to elaborate the idea of “age-possible” meaning-making, a concept that distinguishes the dyadic expansion model from other models of change derived from infant research.

Adolescents and adults of course do communicate nonverbally. They also communicate using language and abstract thought, and the presence of these additional capacities changes their entire way of making meaning, even when they are using their bodies to communicate in nonverbal ways. This change arises because when they choose (consciously or nonconsciously) to communicate nonverbally, adolescents and adults are communicating in the context of an expanded repertoire, one that includes the capacity for verbal communication. By contrast, in the case of an infant or a young child with minimal capacity for language or abstract thought, the repertoire of meaning-making capacities is more limited, and it follows that the meaning of the nonverbal communication is different. Thus, meaning is age-possible (specific to a developmental level).

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