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Olesker, W. (2014). A Developmental View of Hostile Aggression. J. Infant Child Adolesc. Psychother., 13(4):298-307.

(2014). Journal of Infant, Child & Adolescent Psychotherapy, 13(4):298-307

Panel I: Psychoanalysis as Community Work

A Developmental View of Hostile Aggression

Wendy Olesker

I want to welcome our guests and members to a most exciting day. In the interest of time, I will give some background on psychoanalytic views on aggression, make three or four brief points about violence from a developmental point of view, and then introduce our speakers. To frame the conference on “Violence in the Schools, Homes, and on the Streets,” I would emphasize that in work with difficult patients, from research on continuity of attachment classification, and from continuities found in longitudinal follow-up studies on psychotherapy and psychoanalytic research, most important is that change does not happen unless the engagement with the environment is changed. What community psychoanalysts are doing when they change the school and community environments is that they are allowing for a new and different kind of interaction between the violent potential in the individuals they are addressing and the school and communities in which they reside (just as engagement in psychodynamic treatment allows for new patterns of understanding and interaction).


Manifestations of aggression have been viewed variously. At one extreme, aggression has been seen predominantly as an expression of the death instinct (e.g., Freud, Ferenczi, Klein, Rosenfeld) and, at the other, as having no instinctual basis at all—there is only innate assertiveness which, under the influence of frustration, might turn into destructiveness (e.g., Kohut, Guntrip, Fairbairn).

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