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Prior to searching a specific psychoanalytic concept, you may first want to review The Language of Psycho-Analysis written by Laplanche & Pontalis. You can access it directly by clicking here.

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Burian, W. (1998). Die frühe Kindheit: Entwicklungspsychologie der ersten Lebensjahre. By Martin Dornes. [Early childhood: developmental psychology of the first years of life.]: Frankfurt: Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, Reihe Geist und Psyche. 1997. Pp. 380. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 79:829-830.

(1998). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 79:829-830

Die frühe Kindheit: Entwicklungspsychologie der ersten Lebensjahre. By Martin Dornes. [Early childhood: developmental psychology of the first years of life.]: Frankfurt: Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, Reihe Geist und Psyche. 1997. Pp. 380

Review by:
Wilhelm Burian

When necessary Freud himself made use, for the purposes of his clinical expositions, of both direct child observation (for instance in the famous example of the reel game) and reconstructions of the psychoanalytic situation. As he wrote in the 1920 preface to the fourth edition of Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, if ‘mankind had been able to learn from a direct observation of children, these three essays could have remained unwritten’ (1905p. 133). Although the psychoanalytically informed direct observation of small and very small children features prominently in the work of such authors as Imre Hermann, Spitz and Mahler and, in our own day, in that of Emde and Fonagy, oddly enough our picture of the baby or infant has remained one of a more or less passive, undifferentiated creature at the mercy of its drives.

This one-sided view, which is becoming increasingly less scientifically tenable, has been the subject in the last few years of an international debate, the opposite position having been tellingly formulated by Martin Dornes with his idea of the ‘competent baby’ (Dornes, 1993). The topic has come to the fore in the German-language countries only in the last two years, whereas the discussion in the English-speaking world has been conducted between the opposing camps of psychoanalytic research (Fonagy and Gergely) and psychoanalytic tradition (Wolff). The German debate has made a very hesitant start (Uexküll, 1996) and has been confined to ‘specialists’, who have often denied the clinical relevance of the research results.

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