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Ritvo, S. Solnit, A.J. (1960). The Relationship of Early Ego Identifications to Superego Formation. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 41:295-300.

(1960). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 41:295-300

The Relationship of Early Ego Identifications to Superego Formation

Samuel Ritvo and Albert J. Solnit

In psycho-analytic theory the concept of superego includes a psychic structure that acts in regulating the relationship between the instinctual drives and ego, and the outside world. The concept of superego formation involves the process by which prohibitions and restraints, once externally imposed, become internalized. Then the actual presence of the original prohibiting persons is no longer required. We use the term internalization to describe that process by which the ego forms inner or psychic representations of objects that had originally influenced the child from without. This process is a continuum from perception, to imitation, to taking over a characteristic of an object in an ego identification. The more developed the internalization process, the more subtly and intimately blended is that attitude or characteristic as part of the ego.

Numerous authors (Hartmann, Kris, and Loewenstein (3), Jacobson (4), and Reich (5)) have pointed out that early identifications which influence the ego also leave their imprint on later superego formation. In this sense such identifications may be regarded as among the precursors of the superego. These early ego identifications form in part around the limitation or restriction of behaviour. The formation of early identifications is influenced by the early interaction between mother and child, an interaction which reflects constitutional factors, state of development, and the mode and degree of satisfaction or frustration of needs in the child (6).

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