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Spitz, R.A. (1960). Discussion of Dr. Bowlby's Paper. Psychoanal. St. Child, 15:85-94.

(1960). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 15:85-94

Discussion of Dr. Bowlby's Paper

René A. Spitz, M.D.

Dr. Bowlby's paper "Grief and Mourning in Infancy and Early Childhood" is one of a series of articles of which two have already appeared (1958), (1960) and several others are to be published in the future. In what follows I will limit my considerations to his present paper, in which he reopens the discussion concerning infantile responses to loss of object and redefines some psychoanalytic terms and concepts. His thesis is that the responses of infants to loss of object do not differ from that of adults and that these responses are grief and mourning. His crucial question is "Whether or not, when the infant experiences the loss of the love object, he experiences grief and goes through a period of mourning."

A second part of the paper consists in an extensive review of the literature which he quotes to document the thesis advanced by him.

Dr. Bowlby's paper stresses the need for a more exact, clear, and consistent use of terms and concepts, which in many writings have been used carelessly. I am particularly referring to terms like "weaning," also spoken of as "loss of breast." We rarely mention that weaning, as Bowlby states, is not only the loss of the breast, but necessarily represents also the interposition of a greater distance between mother and child, and a reduction of the opportunities for physical closeness between the two.

Furthermore, Bowlby points out that weaning coincides frequently with a separation experience from the mother (for instance, with the birth of a younger sibling), or with an actual loss of the mother figure; this has always been my view (Spitz, 1948).

Bowlby states that in the normal child the manifest consequences of weaning are as a rule fairly mild.

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