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Beres, D. Obers, S.J. (1950). The Effects of Extreme Deprivation in Infancy on Psychic Structure in Adolescenceā€”A Study in Ego Development. Psychoanal. St. Child, 5:212-235.

(1950). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 5:212-235

The Effects of Extreme Deprivation in Infancy on Psychic Structure in Adolescence—A Study in Ego Development

David Beres, M.D. and Samuel J. Obers, M.D.

Ernst Kris (20), in a recent paper, emphasizes the need for experiments to test the validity of genetic propositions in psychoanalysis. In an ideal experiment all factors are kept constant, except one variable whose effects can then be observed. Perhaps fortunately, it is impossible to set up such an experiment with human beings. Sometimes, however, a set of circumstances approximates such an experiment. In this paper we report our observations of such a set of circumstances.

A fundamental proposition which in recent years has been the subject of wide discussion is that behavior and psychic structure in the adult are in a large part determined by the relationship of the infant to the mother. Bálint (3), Benedek (6) and Ribble (23) have described the importance of the early mother-child relationship in the earliest development of the ego in the infant. Durfee and Wolf (9) and Spitz (25), (26), (27), have reported extensive studies on the severe deleterious effects upon the emotional and intellectual development of infants following separation from the mother. In these reports the separation from the mother took the form of institutionalization, and the observations were made during the period of institutionalization. A number of studies have appeared which attempt to determine the later development of children who have experienced varying degrees of institutionalization in infancy. These reports have carried the follow-up studies to different levels of development. Lowrey (22) studied a group of cases immediately after discharge from the institution. Bender (4), (5) has described such cases as observed during latency, and Goldfarb (14), (15), (16) up to early adolescence. Except for Lowrey's paper (22), these reports are unanimous in stressing the irreversibility of the changes produced by the experience of institutionalization.

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