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Hoffer, W. (1950). Oral Aggressiveness and Ego Development. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 31:156-160.

(1950). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 31:156-160

Oral Aggressiveness and Ego Development

W. Hoffer

The assumption that little progress in our knowledge of early infantile life can be expected from mere observation can easily be proved erroneous. Psycho-analytic hypotheses which have not yet been put to the test can still be used as starting-points for further observation and research. Chance experiments which nature itself from time to time provides have proved fruitful. Guided by a scientific method, such as, in our opinion, psycho-analysis is, we shall see more in infants and children and know more about them if only we make the attempt to do so.

Thus, on the basis of infantile finger sucking it has recently been suggested that the mouth-hand relationship enables us to visualize the route by which the growing ego travels when developing from the primitive mouth-ego to the more mature body-ego. This may also make accessible to direct observation the process of differentiation of the ego and the id (W. Hoffer, 1949).

In the present investigation a similar line of approach will be taken to another problem of contemporary psycho-analysis. Once again, by using an observation on oral behaviour some light may be thrown on the relation of oral aggressiveness and destructiveness to early ego development.

The observations to be referred to were made under the favourable conditions existing in the Hampstead (War) Nuseries and with the encouragement and support of their Directors, Dorothy Burlingham and Anna Freud (cf. Dorothy Burlingham and Anna Freud, 1943).


In December 1941 an infant girl, three and a half months old, was admitted, together with her mother, to the residential Hampstead (War) Nurseries and stayed there—with one interruption of nine months' duration—until the age of three and a half.

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