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(1987). Meetings of the New York Psychoanalytic Society. Psychoanal Q., 56:746.

(1987). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 56:746

Meetings of the New York Psychoanalytic Society


Dr. Brody presented a forty-minute teaching film of several children whose levels of competent behavior appeared to have been acquired from the first year of life. The footage was selected from film data gathered in the course of a longitudinal project in which one hundred and twenty-one children and their parents were studied from the children's birth through age seven. The quality of the child's object cathexis for people and things was seen to be intimately related to the quality of the mutual cathexis of mother and infant at the infants' ages of six weeks, six months, and one year. Films of test sessions from ages one to six showed that the children's readiness to understand directions and to carry them out effectively and with satisfaction appeared to be an important result of their trust in the mother's attentiveness and care during infancy, as had been seen in feeding situations. Many styles of competence that reflect drive development are observable in the amount and kind of energy the children invest in a task, the maintenance of their interest in it, and the pleasure they derive from it. The richer and more stable their investment in the environment generally, the more likely they are to develop spontaneous opportunities for able and rewarding activity. Work and pleasure can therefore come to have reciprocal values at an early age, thus facilitating a firm move into the period of formal learning in latency. Competence as an ego strength that involves reality testing, concentration, capacity for delay, cognition, and pleasure in accomplishment (setting aside the effects of unknown constitutional differences) is influenced by the quality of experiences at the hands of the mother or her regular surrogate, from the earliest weeks of life. As a follow-up, ninety-one of the children were located at age eighteen and were interviewed and given a battery of psychological tests. Dr. Brody made brief comments about the children in the film, as they were at age eighteen.

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