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Westen, D. (1990). Towards a Revised Theory of Borderline Object Relations: Contributions of Empirical Research. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 71:661-693.

(1990). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 71:661-693

Towards a Revised Theory of Borderline Object Relations: Contributions of Empirical Research

Drew Westen


Object-relations theories share a number of core assumptions that require reconsideration in the light of empirical data. These include the assumptions that (1) a continuum of development is isomorphic with a continuum of pathology, (2) the origin of severe character pathology lies in the pre-oedipal period, (3) certain features of borderline object relations (such as splitting and narcissism) are transcended normatively by the oedipal period, (4) 'object relations' is a unitary phenomenon or developmental line, (5) object-relational stages are culturally invariant, and (6) clinical data from pathological adults are necessary and largely sufficient for constructing and evaluating theories of object relations. Empirical research has begun to clarify the nature of borderline object relations as well as the development of normal and pathological object-relational functioning. Available data suggest a revised working model of the nature, development and pathology of object relations.

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