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Kris, E. (1950). Notes on the Development and on Some Current Problems of Psychoanalytic Child Psychology. Psychoanal. St. Child, 5:24-46.

(1950). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 5:24-46

Notes on the Development and on Some Current Problems of Psychoanalytic Child Psychology

Ernst Kris, Ph.D.

The beginnings of psychoanalytic child psychology can be traced back to the period of 1890 to 1900 when clinical observations first suggested to Freud that childhood experiences constitute one of the etiological factors in neurotic symptom formation in the adult. Material made accessible recently shows that from this starting point a set of generalizations arose, which enabled Freud to recognize the potentialities of his whole approach in psychopathology, to establish the relative independence of his findings from neurophysiology in the contemporary meaning of the word and thus fully to realize the scope of his venture. We are justified in saying that it was the ontogenetic approach which helped Freud to realize that, what had been initiated as an attempt to investigate etiological factors in hysteria, had led to nuclear parts of a new psycho-pathology and psychology (Freud, 24); (Kris, 44), (45). It would be a fascinating essay in the history of psychoanalysis and a worth-while contribution to the history of science in general to investigate in some detail how Freud's views developed and how, based on data from the analysis of adult patients, insight into the psychosexual development of the child was gradually gained. We know in general terms that the reconstructive method had enabled him to recognize regular maturational sequences in the child's life; this unparalleled and uniquely successful procedure cannot merely be evaluated as an awe-inspiring feat of that one observer; it has at the same time established the fruitfulness of psychoanalytic observation as the method of ontogenetic inquiry. However, the individual steps by which Freud reached his conclusions have never been demonstrated. No such detailed investigation will here be attempted. I shall have to limit myself to tracing a number of trends in contemporary research to their initial stages.

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