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Rhode, M. (2005). Mirroring, imitation, identification: the sense of self in relation to the mother's internal world. J. Child Psychother., 31(1):52-71.

(2005). Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 31(1):52-71

Mirroring, imitation, identification: the sense of self in relation to the mother's internal world

Maria Rhode

The phenomenon of neonatal imitation, and the use of mutual imitation by mother and baby in the service of attunement, are considered in relation to psychoanalytic theories of mirroring, imitation and identification. Material from infant observation and from the treatment of two children on the autistic spectrum is discussed in terms of the suggestion that developmental imitation implies a perceived position of balance between the external baby and the mother's supposed internal occupant. This is seen as making possible introjective identification and assimilation, with the enrichment of the sense of identity, in contrast to the kind of imitation involving mimicry, in which adhesive or projective identification may be operative.

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