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(1973). Meeting of the New York Psychoanalytic Society. Psychoanal Q., 42:169-170.

(1973). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 42:169-170

Meeting of the New York Psychoanalytic Society


Following Mahler, McDevitt places the child's beginning attainment of some degree of object constancy between twenty-five and thirty-six months. The chief criterion is the child's ability to tolerate brief separations from the mother as a result of the intrapsychic availability of the mental representation of the mother. Using selected film sequences from the research study of the separation-individuation process, the author examines the development of libidinal object constancy during the first three years of life. He suggests that the differences among writers over the concept of object constancy might be reconciled if it is defined as primarily the contribution of the ego to the gradual development of object relations throughout childhood and adolescence, rather than as a distinct developmental stage. The development of object constancy would then be seen as determined by the changing nature of the libidinal and aggressive cathexis of the love object, the progression of complex levels of memory organization and mental representation, and the emergence of such aspects of ego development as anticipation, intentionality, etc. The meaning of object constancy as well as the criteria for it would therefore change as the child progresses from one phase to the next. The first three years of life would be most crucial for its attainment.

Longitudinal observational study of normal mother-child pairs provided the material from which inferences are made as to the changing state of mental representation of the mother.

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