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James, M. (1967). The First Year of Life: By René A. Spitz. (New York: Int. Univ. Press, 1965. Pp. 394. $8.50.). Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 48:118-121.

(1967). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 48:118-121

The First Year of Life: By René A. Spitz. (New York: Int. Univ. Press, 1965. Pp. 394. $8.50.)

Review by:
Martin James

Psycho-analytic infant observation, Spitz's preoccupation for some thirty years, is a particularly difficult area to explore. "Objective" scientists suspect its validity and clinical workers suspect its relevance to their practice and to the very reconstructions without which infant observation was not previously possible. To some extent this book is therefore a testamentary documentation not only of knowledge won but also of Spitz's battle for its establishment.

Plagiarism is endemic in the world of ideas, and in psycho-analysis priorities are especially hard to place; probably only Freud can establish a real "first time" in our field. Nevertheless, to read this book is to be reminded of our great debt to Spitz. When we read Laurence Sterne or Shakespeare we find how much we quote them. To go through this book of Spitz's is like following the road from Nuits St. Georges to Beaune, on which, passing a roll call of famous names, Clos de Vougeto, Gevrey Chambertin, Aloxe Corton and the rest, we are amazed to see where the things we know about and value come from. Such was my experience in reading The First Year of Life. Some of the familiar things, like anaclitic depression, can be at once attributed but there are others which surprise. For example Zeigarnik's demonstration of Goethe's theorem that uncompleted stories are particularly remembered; the fact that three-month colic is unknown in infants raised in institutions; Ashley Montagu's evidence that rats raised in a sterile environment die unless the parents lick their offspring's genitals and so enable them to urinate or defaecate; Needham's "organizer" and its analogue in psychic development; the "smiling response" and its significance as indicator of a level of development attained or not.

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