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Silverman, D.K. (1987). What Are Little Girls Made Of?. Psychoanal. Psychol., 4(4):315-334.

(1987). Psychoanalytic Psychology, 4(4):315-334

What Are Little Girls Made Of?

Doris K. Silverman, Ph.D.

Research is presented that supports the thesis of the special significance of bonding for females. Although investigators of neonatal behavior have written of the importance of bonding for both male and female infants, there are data suggesting that its salience is more compelling for female infants. Neonatal bonding is more immediate and sustaining and allows for interactive experiences earlier and more frequently in females than males. The research findings cited are considered in relation to Freud's developmental views of women and his psychoanalytic writings on penis envy, the Oedipus complex, and object relations. The concept of autonomy in psychoanalysis is also considered from the vantage point of female development. It is argued, in this context, that the powerful bonding proclivities of females often have been viewed as a developmental failure that serves as a constraint on psychoanalytic theorizing about females and that can handicap women in psychoanalytic treatment.

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