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Winnicott, D.W. (1960). The Theory of the Parent-Infant Relationship. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 41:585-595.

(1960). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 41:585-595

The Theory of the Parent-Infant Relationship

D. W. Winnicott


i. An examination is made of infancy; this is not the same as an examination of primitive mental mechanisms.

ii. The main feature of infancy is dependence; this is discussed in terms of the holding environment.

iii. Any study of infancy must be divided into two parts:

a. Infant development facilitated by good-enough maternal care;

b. Infant development distorted by maternal care that is not good enough.

iv. The infant ego can be said to be weak, but in fact is strong because of the ego support of maternal care. Where maternal care fails the weakness of the infant ego becomes apparent.

v. Processes in the mother (and in the father) bring about, in health, a special state in which the parent is orientated to the infant, and is thus in a position to meet the infant's dependence. There is a pathology of these processes.

vi. Attention is drawn to the various ways in which these conditions inherent in what is here termed the holding environment can or cannot appear in the transference if at a later date the infant should come into analysis.

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