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Davies, M. (1989). Stern, Daniel N. The Interpersonal World of the Infant. A View from Psychoanalysis and Developmental Psychology. New York, Basic Books, 1985. Pp. X + 304. Hardback £25.. J. Anal. Psychol., 34(1):102-105.

(1989). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 34(1):102-105

Stern, Daniel N. The Interpersonal World of the Infant. A View from Psychoanalysis and Developmental Psychology. New York, Basic Books, 1985. Pp. X + 304. Hardback £25.

Review by:
Miranda Davies

Because our ideas about the infant's mental experience inform all our thinking about development and psychopathology, Stern has undertaken to bring together in this fascinating and stimulating book the experimental data of development psychology and various theoretical formulations of psychoanalysis, to make a comparison between the observed infant and what he calls the ‘clinical’ infant. The clinical infant, he maintains, is a theoretical construct created from the remembered experience of adults in analysis, and in this area Stern's thinking is informed by psychoanalysis as developed in America, without reference to developments in the British school of psychoanalysis beyond Klein.

The book is largely concerned with Stern's theory of the development of a sense of self, an idea that will be of great interest to analytical psychologists. As may be expected Stern does not relate his findings to Jung's archetypal self, but they can, I think, fruitfully be understood as substantiating current thinking about what Carvalho (this Journal, Vol. 30 No. 3) has called the individuating self, as well as Fordham's primary self, deintegration and reintegration. As Plaut has pointed out, the self is both a word in our language and a concept in dynamic psychologies. I do not think Stern's use of the word ‘self’ makes a distinction between the two, but brings together observed facts about infants in an arresting new schema.

Stern maintains that some senses of the self exist long before self-awareness and language are present, and these include the sense of agency, of physical cohesion, of continuity in time and of having intentions in mind. ‘If we assume that some preverbal senses of the self start to form at birth (if not before), while others require the later-appearing capacities before they can emerge, then we are freed from the partially semantic task of choosing criteria to decide, a priori, when sense of self really begins.’ (p. 6).


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