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Settlage, C.F. (1997). The Internal Mother: Conceptual and Technical Aspects of Object Constancy. Edited by Salman Akhtar, Selma Kramer and Henri Parens. Northvale, New Jersey: Jason Aronson. 1996. Pp. 207.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 78:1046-1049.

(1997). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 78:1046-1049

The Internal Mother: Conceptual and Technical Aspects of Object Constancy. Edited by Salman Akhtar, Selma Kramer and Henri Parens. Northvale, New Jersey: Jason Aronson. 1996. Pp. 207.

Review by:
Calvin F. Settlage

This book takes its title from Mahler's observation: ‘By object constancy we mean that the maternal image [the “internal mother” (Mahler, Pine and Bergman, 1975, p. 118] has become intrapsychically available to the child in the same way as the actual mother had been libidinally available—for sustenance, comfort, and love’ (Mahler & Furer, 1968, p. 222). On the bases of research on early mother-child interaction and clinical application, the book reviews, extends and further defines the concept of object constancy.

Two features of the book make it particularly valuable. One is the single theme. The other is the fact that the book is based on the contributions of German and American analysts who participated in the Second International Margaret S. Mahler Symposium on Child Development. The advantage of this is that evolving psychoanalytic knowledge is critically addressed through a dialogue among analysts with similar and with different cultural and training backgrounds, and with different theoretical inclinations.

The evolution of Hartmann's concept of object constancy is insightfully portrayed through the combined perspectives of several of the authors. Blum's historical review perceptively places it in the context of broader psychoanalytic thought. He notes, for example, the shifts in Freud's thinking whereby the mother, instead of being simply the object of the drives, is seen to have a crucial role in the infant's development. With the mother in this role, the threat of loss of the mother, and later, the loss of mother's love powerfully influence the child's adaptation and development as these take place initially within the mother-child relationship.

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