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Goldberg, S.H. (1989). Contemporary Psychoanalysis. XXIII, 1987: Sullivan's Conceptual Contributions to Child Psychiatry. Leonard I. Siegel. Pp. 278-298.. Psychoanal Q., 58:685.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Contemporary Psychoanalysis. XXIII, 1987: Sullivan's Conceptual Contributions to Child Psychiatry. Leonard I. Siegel. Pp. 278-298.

(1989). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 58:685

Contemporary Psychoanalysis. XXIII, 1987: Sullivan's Conceptual Contributions to Child Psychiatry. Leonard I. Siegel. Pp. 278-298.

Steven H. Goldberg

This paper reviews some of the major theoretical and clinical contributions of Harry Stack Sullivan, with particular emphasis on those contributions of direct relevance to child psychiatry. For Sullivan, anxiety and its avoidance are central motivating forces; the self-system evolves to minimize anxiety by the use of security operations and selective inattention. There is a drive toward relatedness with other people and toward seeking their approval and avoiding their disapproval. Mental illness is seen as an attempt to solve interpersonal problems, especially those created by pathology in parents and in the larger social surround. Sullivan delineated an epigenetic theory of development, which outlined major phases of development in terms of interpersonal milestones. The infant experiences both good mother and bad mother and counterpart good self and bad self. These are merged into unitary personifications, which are predominantly satisfactory or predominantly not. In the latter case, interpersonal warps develop which, if uncorrected by later experience, lead to psychopathology. Childhood, the juvenile era, pre-adolescence, and adolescence are similarly described in terms of the major interpersonal processes expected and the sequelae of their successful or unsuccessful integration. An important notion is that earlier failures in interpersonal processes can be corrected at later phases. Many of these ideas are seen as precursors of object relations theory, self psychology, and family and systems theories. The role of successful psychotherapy is to enlarge the scope of the self, as previously dissociated and selectively unattended aspects of self can be reintegrated. The author believes that Sullivan's emphasis on participant observation in the therapy situation and his emphasis on communication within families and larger social systems have been extremely significant contributions to psychoanalytic theory and therapy.

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Article Citation

Goldberg, S.H. (1989). Contemporary Psychoanalysis. XXIII, 1987. Psychoanal. Q., 58:685

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