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Halpert, E. (2000). On Lying and The Lie of A Toddler. Psychoanal Q., 69(4):659-675.

(2000). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 69(4):659-675

On Lying and The Lie of A Toddler

Eugene Halpert, M.D.

For most of its history, the psychoanalytic literature on lying dealt exclusively with the dynamic, genetic meanings of lying: the problems for treatment presented by a patient who lies, and the technique used in dealing analytically with lies. In recent decades, issues relating to the moral and general development of children in relation to lying have been considered. In this paper, a lie told by a 21-month-old child is used to raise and explore questions about lying and its relation to intrapsychic structure and development. It is suggested that cognitive abilities and the psychic apparatus have to develop to the point that self can be distinguished from object, and a superego prototype must be present, before the means and motivations for lying are in place. This would date the beginning of the capacity to lie to sixteen to twenty-four months of age.

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