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James, M. (1960). Premature Ego Development. Some Observations on Disturbances in the First Three Months of Life. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 41:288-294.

(1960). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 41:288-294

Premature Ego Development. Some Observations on Disturbances in the First Three Months of Life

Martin James


In this paper a syndrome is described which is common in the first three months of life. One possible outcome is suggested in premature ego development and also a potential relation to many other later syndromes thought of as fixations in the phase of primary narcissism. The idea is advanced of an environmentally acquired part of the constitution comparable to neural patterning. This patterning would be potentially prodromal to all later psychological development, and as Greenacre puts it 'may increase later psychological pressures'.

The patterning would be non-symbolic, and being biological probably not itself accessible retrospectively to psycho-analysis. This of course does not apply to its consequences in personality development. It is suggested that dynamically regressive handling at the time of the trauma acts through narcissistic gratification to avoid substitutive reactions which are not phase-adequate. Two instances of this are given, the adequate feeding at three months and the special encouragement at two years by the father. Attention is drawn to Winnicott and Hoffer's formulations of the phase-adequate experiences of the period of primary narcissism.

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