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James, M. (1962). The Theory of the Parent-Infant Relationship—Contributions to Discussion. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 43:247-248.

(1962). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 43:247-248

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

Martin James


Considerations of time require that I speak about only one of these interesting papers. I would like to put together one thread of Winnicott's argument in a series of propositions taken from the paper.

First, he says 'at the earliest stages the infant and the maternal care belong to each other and cannot be disentangled'. Inside and outside are the same at this phase: 'when the id-forces clamour for attention at first they are external to the infant', i.e. to its ego. Later they become gathered into the ego or in varying degrees fail to do so—'in the ill-health of infancy achievements of this kind may be won or lost'. 'The main reason why in infant development the infant usually becomes able to master, and the infant to include, the id, is the fact of the maternal care.'

As Winnicott sees it: failure of mothering can lead to the id remaining relatively or totally external for the infant, and this is from lack of the ego support of the mother. If this happens defences of psychotic quality, i.e. to deal with conflict between the self and the outside world, will then be organized. I would like to ask Winnicott whether he means, as I think he does, that this type of psychotic defence can be environmentally induced even in infants with a first-class heredity and an endowment free from psychotic taint. I can only read this paper and his other writings in this sense, and it seems to me that, clear though the concept is, it is one which it may be hard for analysts reared in classical theory to accept.

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