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Fraiberg, S. Adelson, E. (1973). Self-Representation in Language and Play: Observations of Blind Children. Psychoanal Q., 42:539-562.

(1973). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 42:539-562

Self-Representation in Language and Play: Observations of Blind Children

Selma Fraiberg and Edna Adelson


The blind child's delay in the acquisition of 'I' is examined as a problem in self-representation. In a detailed longitudinal study of Kathie, the authors describe the extraordinary problems for a blind child in representation of the self in play and language. Kathie's achievement of a stable 'I' at the age of four years, ten months corresponds exactly with her capacity to represent herself in doll play and to invent an imaginary companion. Zazzo's protocols are employed for a comparison of a sighted child and the blind child in acquisition of 'I'. Our data invite extended inquiry with a sighted child population. Detailed study of the developmental sequence of the representation of the self in language and play should add to our understanding of the evolution of the concept of self and the capacity to take the self as an object.

The ego is 'I', yet we find ourselves, strangely, without empirical studies of the acquisition of 'I' in early childhood. The blind children with their typical delays in self-representation have given us a map which should be valuable in identifying the strata of self through observations of the capacity to represent the self in language and play. We are pursuing these problems in empirical studies with sighted children and will report on these studies later.

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