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Jacobson, E. (1946). The Child's Laughter—Theoretical and Clinical Notes on the Function of the Comic. Psychoanal. St. Child, 2:39-60.

(1946). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 2:39-60

The Child's Laughter—Theoretical and Clinical Notes on the Function of the Comic

Edith Jacobson, M.D.

Unquestionably child analysis has proved its value as a method that has yielded remarkable scientific contributions in the field of child psychology. With due respect to the work done by Anna Freud and other outstanding child analysts it must be admitted, however, that the scientific harvest has not wholly fulfilled the hopes that Freud himself pinned on child analysis at first. If we but compare the results of analytic investigation of children, and of experimental and observational work, to the material outlined in The Three Contributions to the Theory of Sex, we are amazed at the amount and depth of knowledge of child psychology that was first gathered merely through reconstructive analysis of adults—by someone with Freud's vision, to be sure.

Bearing in mind the discussion and the evaluation of the "genetic propositions" of psychoanalysis (10) we may be able briefly to define the potentialities and shortcomings of child analysis as a research method, in comparison to the analysis of adults.

Unfortunately, the child analyst can only observe cross-sections and stages of development, rather than the vicissitudes of instinctual drives and ego trends, from childhood to maturity, i.e., over the whole life span. In the first place, he rarely succeeds in reconstructing a complete genetic picture of the past development from child patients through the recovery and analysis of memory material, as is frequently possible in the analysis of adults. For such work the mind of a child is not equipped. The child is concerned mainly with present and future, and is neither willing nor detached enough to turn back to and search in the past. Secondly, the child analyst's field of vision is limited, as he cannot look beyond the age level of his patients nor follow their development longer than a few years at most.


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