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Rank, B. (1949). Aggression. Psychoanal. St. Child, 3:43-48.

(1949). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 3:43-48


Beata Rank

Observations of a group of seriously disturbed atypical young children at The James Jackson Putnam Children's Center which we have recently described (3), (4), illustrate the great importance of the emotional climate of the mother-child relationship within which the infant experiences his early gratifications and, later, increasing deprivations and frustrations. Deprivation is necessary, we said—following the statement of Hartmann, Kris, and Loewenstein (1)—for the development of the ego, for the differentiation of self and the outside world. However, every transition from indulgence to deprivation brings tension, which is tolerated only when the child feels secure, confident that indulgence will again follow deprivation. As the child learns to distinguish between himself and the mother, he develops understanding for her communications. The detailed processes of this understanding are unknown; hence we speak of the quasi-mystical union of mother and child, of the dynamic unit that mother and child represent. When the mother herself is a poorly organized personality, narcissistic and immature, though not infrequently extremely conscientious and eager to become a mother, the child's ego has a very precarious existence. It remains largely undeveloped and hence is not capable of organizing and controlling drives (libidinal and aggressive). In the case of our atypical children we speak of a fragmented ego because it has no unity and represents an unintegrated conglomeration of various segments or fragments of the successive stages of development. The frailty and ineffectiveness of such an ego is responsible for the fact that these children with atypical or arrested development have a very low threshold of tolerance for frustration which, in turn, produces constant tension and/or anxiety. The tension and/or anxiety finds its primary expression in a motor-expressive discharge.

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