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Salomonsson, B. (2016). Infantile Defences in Parent-Infant Psychotherapy: The Example of Gaze Avoidance. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 97(1):65-88.

(2016). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 97(1):65-88

Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy

Infantile Defences in Parent-Infant Psychotherapy: The Example of Gaze Avoidance

Björn Salomonsson

(Accepted for publication 29 October 2014)

Findings from parent-infant observational research have stimulated the development of intersubjective models of psychotherapeutic action. These models have brought out the infant as an interactive partner with the parent. Conversely, interest in describing the individual psyche of the baby has decreased, especially the unconscious levels of his/her experiences and representations. In parallel, clinicians and researchers have been less prone to apply classical psychoanalytic concepts when describing the internal world of the infant. The author argues that this is inconsistent with the fact that psychoanalytic theory, from its inception, was founded on speculations of the infant's mind. He investigates one such concept from classical theory; the defence. Specifically, he investigates if selective gaze avoidance in young babies may be described as a defence or even a defence mechanism. The investigation links with Selma Fraiberg's discussion of the phenomenon and also with Freud's conception of defence. The author also compares his views on the baby as a subject with those suggested by infant researchers, for example, Stern and Beebe. The discussion is illustrated by vignettes from a psychoanalytic therapy with a 3 month-old girl and her mother.

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