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(1962). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association. IX, 1961: Some Developmental Observations Relating to the Theory of Anxiety. John D. Benjamin. Pp. 652-668.. Psychoanal Q., 31:423-424.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association. IX, 1961: Some Developmental Observations Relating to the Theory of Anxiety. John D. Benjamin. Pp. 652-668.

(1962). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 31:423-424

Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association. IX, 1961: Some Developmental Observations Relating to the Theory of Anxiety. John D. Benjamin. Pp. 652-668.

The results of longitudinal study of children and their families, from the third or fourth month of pregnancy on, are incompatible with Rank's thesis that the birth trauma is the one overwhelmingly important factor in the causation of pathological anxiety and severe neurosis. However, they are in agreement with Greenacre's proposition that the birth experience is one of several factors associated with a variable predisposition to anxiety. The author agrees with Freud that constitutional factors play a much more important role in the predisposition to anxiety and neurosis.

Benjamin refutes the tendency to consider the first six to eight weeks of life as being essentially without psychological content. He states that it is empirically demonstrable that different experiences are differently perceived and utilized in learning at this age. For example, the smiling response of the two to two-and-a-half-month-old child is not only maturationally determined but is significantly correlated with previous experiences with the mother as a source of tension reduction and of undifferentiated positive affect. With the lowering of the stimulus barrier in the first three to four weeks of life, the increase in tension accumulation through increased external stimulation demands the intervention of an 'object', i.e., a mother figure, for help in tension reduction. In the absence of such an object the infant is prone to outbursts of negative affect which may be considered an indication of an increased predisposition to anxiety. It can be demonstrated that different previous experiences significantly codetermine the frequency and nature of fear responses in the third, fourth, and fifth month to strange situations, strange objects, and occasionally even to strange faces. The author's data does not confirm Spitz's differentiation of these reactions as responses to memory traces of real danger; true anxiety responses, or fear of object loss, occur later in the first year of life, i.e., the eight-month anxiety. The infant's maturationally determined capacity to distinguish between the face of the mother and of the stranger has existed long before the existence of this anxiety. The maturational organization of aggression into object-directed hostility and anger is a necessary condition for this anxiety, in addition to the more definite organization of the libidinal investment in the mother, the further development of the earlier distinctions between her and others, and between the 'I' and 'non-I', as well as the ego's increased capacity to anticipate and predict. It can be clearly

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demonstrated that individual differences and experiences also play a significant role in the development of this anxiety.

Benjamin states that observable variations in the ratio between 'stranger anxiety' and 'infantile separation anxiety' denote important variability in response to the basic fear of object loss. On the dynamic level these differences reflect different configurations of other forces, such as aggression toward the mother and fear of the intruder who comes between the infant and the mother. These, in turn, are related to different experiences and possibly to different innate tendencies. Extreme degrees of 'separation anxiety' and 'stranger anxiety' in the infant seem to have some differential predictive value for the future course of anxiety development.

In his concluding comments the author states that his data support the formulation that the ego experiences anxiety rather than produces it, and that the quality of the anxiety experienced depends on the stage of development of the ego functions, drive organizations, and object relationships.

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Article Citation

(1962). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association. IX, 1961. Psychoanal. Q., 31:423-424

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