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Grinker, R.R. (1957). On Identification. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 38:379-390.

(1957). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 38:379-390

On Identification

Roy R. Grinker, M.D.


The subject of identification is almost coextensive with the entire field of psychodynamics, for it involves consideration of the processes of instinctual drives, the mechanisms of early socialization, and the intra-psychic and interpersonal behaviour and conflicts of the human being. Previous consideration of the participation of early physiological patterns in psychological development (12) naturally led me to the question: How do the periodic cycles of infantile metabolism influence developing ego patterns, and how do these obtain their content from relationships with representatives of the external world? The subject of identification, therefore, becomes an extension of biological theory. On the other hand, identifications develop from transactions between the maturing child and other persons transmitting the symbol systems of societies and cultures; and personality interacts with other personalities to form social and cultural systems. Therefore, identifications constitute theoretical bridges between biology and personality, and between personalities and social groups.

Recently, social psychiatrists and sociologists have been allocating bridging functions to social roles as systems of communications and expectations in transactions among human beings (Spiegel, 20). They constitute a description of behaviour gross enough to be defined through a period of time, but limited to what may be available or permitted in a specific social system. As communications occupying varying time spans, they are derived from unconscious attitudes based on past learning and are governed by motivations which have their origin in a multiplicity of internal identifications that may never, or at least not directly, be revealed in behaviour.

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