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Osofsky, J.D. (1991). The Interpersonal World of the Infant. Daniel Stern New York: Basic Books, 1985, 304 pp.. Psychoanal. Rev., 78(1):135-141.

(1991). Psychoanalytic Review, 78(1):135-141


The Interpersonal World of the Infant. Daniel Stern New York: Basic Books, 1985, 304 pp.

Review by:
Joy D. Osofsky, Ph.D.


Speigel (1987) stated that Daniel Stern's volume, The Interpersonal World of the Infant, “clearly will be the book of the decade in its influence on psychoanalytic theory.” Emde (1981) a psychoanalyst and major researcher in the area of infant development, believes that the “conceptual foundations of psychoanalysis will be shaken” by infusion of developmental data (such as that presented by Stern) into psychoanalytic thinking. The book has generated lively discussion and controversy and perhaps it is an appropriate time to consider the impact of Stern's work on both psychoanalysis and developmental psychology.

There have been a number of reviews of Stern's book and his work over the last few years that I will be integrating into my perspective. While the task of determining the impact of the book may be a bit premature, since the volume was only published in 1985, this review will focus on the impact of his book to date. Several reviewers, among them Zeanah, Horner, and Sander, all highly respected in the field of infant development, have stated that if Stern's conclusions stand the test of time, we need to change our thinking about development, psychopathology, and even treatment. If this supposition proves to be valid, we can conclude that Stern's book will have a very significant impact on the field. But let us review the evidence before drawing any conclusions.

Theories of human development are crucial in helping us test important hypotheses, carry out systematic observations, and guide our clinical work. They organize and direct our thinking and empirical work. At the same time, theories reflect our bias, which, at times, may be limiting. Further, there are times when theory may ignore or seemingly contradict the important retrospective information that is obtained from psychoanalytically oriented clinical work with children and adults.

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