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Sachs, L.J. (1977). Two Cases of Oedipal Conflict Beginning at Eighteen Months. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 58:57-66.

(1977). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 58:57-66

Two Cases of Oedipal Conflict Beginning at Eighteen Months

Lisbeth J. Sachs

Castration anxiety has been observed at an early stage in the infant's development. Freud (1909) wrote:

It has been urged that every time his mother's breast is withdrawn from a baby he is bound to feel it as castration (that is to say, as the loss of what he regards as an important part of his own body); that, further, he cannot fail to be similarly affected by the regular loss of his faeces; and, finally, that the act of birth itself (consisting as it does in the separation of the child from his mother, with whom he has hitherto been united) is the prototype of all castration. … The term 'castration complex' ought to be confined to those excitations and effects which are bound up with the loss of the penis (p. 8 fn.).

Several authors have observed early castration anxiety, though none of them links it to the oedipal conflict.

Loewenstein (1950) cites the case of a ten-months-old who wants to be reassured that the penis stays with the body and is not lost as a 'typical' phenomenon, but that only 'at a later stage, during the phallic phase of development, the boy experiences the impact of the castration complex …'. Greenacre (1968) postulates that towards the end of the second year there is 'some enhancement of genital activity' and links it to 'the increasing maturation of the body sphincters'. Glover (1945) writes: 'I have myself postulated primitive genital (nuclear) formations in early infancy, but that is not the same thing as postulating an active oedipus situation'.

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