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(1962). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association. VIII, 1960: On the Question of Primary Object Need. Hilda S. Rollman-Branch. Pp. 686-702.. Psychoanal Q., 31:132.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association. VIII, 1960: On the Question of Primary Object Need. Hilda S. Rollman-Branch. Pp. 686-702.

(1962). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 31:132

Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association. VIII, 1960: On the Question of Primary Object Need. Hilda S. Rollman-Branch. Pp. 686-702.

Observations from the field of ethology are aligned with data from infant observation to elucidate similarities and differences between animal attachment behavior and human object relations. Imprinting, with its following behavior and exclusive attachment to the object, represents a key patterning in the instinctual unfolding of many young animals with movement, sound, spatial configurations, and, in the case of mammals, warmth, skin contacts, and fur playing important roles in the 'critical period' for imprinting. If this period passes unused, avoidance reactions are subsequently predominant and imprinting does not take place. Under normal circumstances, a reciprocal relationship between parents and young is enacted; it is not conditioned but rather is dependent upon innate releasing mechanisms within both. Imprinting favors the survival of the individual and the preservation of the species, delineates filial-parental interaction, and establishes the choice of the future sex object. Various instinctive activities are imprinted on different objects at different stages of postnatal maturation. The phenomena of flocking and herding seem to be based on companionship needs that are independent of feeding and physical self-sufficiency, and on avoidance patterns focused on nonspecies objects. Possibly these phenomena are forerunners of instinctual patterning in the human, on which are based the postnatal development of his object relations.

Infant observation indicates that needs for warmth, contact, and feeding precede avoidance reactions. Smiling, perhaps to be compared to the gaping response of young birds, can be considered a species-specific motor act of the infant for which the human face becomes the most potent sign stimulus. By six months the smiling is a discriminating response to the sight of the mother's face while anxiety and withdrawal are the responses to a strange face. This six-month period may be analogous to the critical period for imprinting in the animal, whose survival is safeguarded by the sequence of imprinting and later fear reaction, by which is established a positive attitude toward the species and avoidance of others. In the human the mother's ego largely replaces the instinctive stereotypes of her innate stimulus responses to the stimuli presented by her newborn infant and, in turn, his developing ego increasingly mediates his behavior. But in the critical period of the first six months, the infant needs an optimal degree of human contact, aside from that incidental to the satisfaction of his physical needs, if he is to avoid marasmus and death. Increasingly refined synthesis of data from both ethology and infant observation may eventually throw light on the question of primary versus secondary object drive, probably in the direction of a complementary concept.

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Article Citation

(1962). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association. VIII, 1960. Psychoanal. Q., 31:132

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