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Schur, M. (1962). The Theory of the Parent-Infant Relationship—Contributions to Discussion. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 43:243-245.

(1962). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 43:243-245

The Theory of the Parent-Infant Relationship—Contributions to Discussion Related Papers

Max Schur


During recent decades the development of early object relationships has been in the centre of interest not alone among psycho-analysts but also students of other branches of developmental psychology. There is a common theme in all this work, which can be summarized as follows:

a. The development of object relations is a circular process, depending on a well-balanced interplay between infant and mother (or a mother-surrogate).

b. Specifically, there is more or less general agreement that on the one hand learning, or what we call 'structure formation', is greatly dependent on early object relationship, and that on the other hand the nature of this object relationship depends on the endowment, growth, maturation, and structure development of the infant as well as on the response of the environment, mainly the mother, to the infant.

c. There is also an increasing conviction that this circular process starts at birth; moreover, as Greenacre has emphasized, and some American psycho-biologists have shown, some 'learning' may begin even in utero.

d. There is an ever-growing need to correlate the manifold facets of the biological endowment of the infant with its psychological development in general, and specifically with the development of object relationships. The main part of Greenacre's paper was devoted to this point, on which I would like to add some remarks.

Winnicott used the term dependence as the key-word of his study. Freud's term 'helplessness', which he used for instance in Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety (5), is even more poignant.

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