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Lichtenberg, J. (2010). Patterns of Love in the Four- to Six-Year-Old Period and the Dispositional Effect They Create. Psychoanal. Inq., 30(6):478-484.

(2010). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 30(6):478-484

Patterns of Love in the Four- to Six-Year-Old Period and the Dispositional Effect They Create

Joseph Lichtenberg, M.D.


Freud's (1924) iconic contribution was to apply the myths of ancient Greek tragedy to children in the Oedipal phase. This theory holds that the child's intrafamily relationships are driven by repressed universal unilateral fantasies of sexual desire for the parent of the opposite gender, murder of the rival parent, and fear of retaliation by castration for boys or inhibition by penis envy for girls. My (Lichtenberg, 2008) contrasting view is that the romantic love of the four- to six-year-old child is an emergent experience of body sensation and cocreated complex emotional relational desires. The highly varied forms of romantic feelings and patterns of behavior are influenced by preceding dispositional patterns of attachment security and love or attachment insecurity, ambivalence or avoidance.

Throughout life, humans seek pleasurable arousing and/or soothing body sensations. Parents, guided by the values of their own parents and culture, respond to infant's pleasure-seeking behaviors either by approving, sharing, and encouraging or by disapproving, shaming, and prohibiting (Lichtenberg, 2008). A dispositional pattern is thus set that enters directly into the playing out in behavior and fantasy of four- to six-year-old children's desires toward their parents, siblings, and others, and toward their own body.

Tommy is allowed, even encouraged, to kiss his parents on the mouth—a sensual exchange all enjoy. Betty is forbidden to kiss on the mouth, a sexual practice her parents regard as an expression of sexuality improper for a child.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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