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Harris, M. (1975). Some Notes on Maternal Containment in ‘Good Enough’ Mothering. J. Child Psychother., 4(1):35-51.

(1975). Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 4(1):35-51

Some Notes on Maternal Containment in ‘Good Enough’ Mothering

Martha Harris

In this paper I shall first of all- refer to those theories which I have found most useful in thinking about the many details to be observed in the close study of the early weeks of an infant's interaction with his mother. They are theories which help to bring together configurations seen in the infant observation situation (Bick 1962), with transference phenomena in analytic work with children and adults, in a way that enriches the understanding of both.

I shall then present some sequences from observations of two babies in favourable family circumstances during, those early weeks, following them with excerpts from the beginning of the analysis of a young mother referred for treatment because of acute anxieties during pregnancy and severe depression following the birth of the baby.

The theories are concerned with the prerequisite for mental growth of a primary maternal object who can be an adequate container for the infant's personality, the ‘good enough mother’ about whom Winnicott has written (1965). Detailed study of interaction between individual mothers and infants may help us to formulate better the quality that underlies this quantative differentiation; the constituents that make for that ‘good enough’; and lead to a more convincing recognition of the uniqueness of each relationship, and perhaps the importance of ‘fit’ between the temperament of the mother and the constitution of the baby.

When Freud discovered the phenomenon of narcissism in 1914 his idea was that it was a development from auto-erotism towards object-relations in which the child took his own body as object, in so far as it was identified with, and was indistinguishable from the body of the parent.

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