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Burlingham, D.T. (1935). Child Analysis and the Mother. Psychoanal Q., 4:69-92.

(1935). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 4:69-92

Child Analysis and the Mother

Dorothy Tiffany Burlingham

There are certain difficulties which arise in the analysis of a child that are not encountered in the analysis of an independent, non-psychotic adult. There is, for instance, the child's relative inability to express himself in words, and his frequent use of other means of communication. Furthermore, the child's emotional relationship to the analyst is complicated by many factors, among them his natural attachment to and dependence upon his parents. In turn, his dependence upon his parents forces the analyst to keep the child's parents in a favorable attitude toward the analysis. It is this last problem which will be the chief topic of this paper. To maintain the sympathy and the coöperation of the parents throughout the entire analysis of a child is a difficult and trying problem; and yet if one does not succeed in this the analysis moves inevitably to an abrupt and premature interruption. In this paper we will talk chiefly of mothers, because it is almost exclusively with them that the analyst must deal.

There are two kinds of mothers, those who are completely ignorant of analysis and those who know something about it and who perhaps have themselves been analyzed. Those who are informed about analysis are at first easier to deal with, for they understand the analytical process. Nevertheless it is inevitable that difficulties should arise, for the analyst's suggestions often conflict with the mother's unconscious needs. Mothers who are in analysis at the same time as their children will often unwittingly allow their attitudes towards their own analyses to influence their behavior towards the analyses of their children. Those who know little or nothing of analysis cannot help making difficulties, no matter how hard they try not to. Mothers in general, therefore, have to be dealt with as part of the treatment. They must be appealed to and their interest must be gained.

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