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Spitz, R.A. (1962). Autoerotism Re-Examined—The Role of Early Sexual Behavior Patterns in Personality Formation. Psychoanal. St. Child, 17:283-315.

(1962). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 17:283-315

Autoerotism Re-Examined—The Role of Early Sexual Behavior Patterns in Personality Formation

René A. Spitz, M.D.

There are few reports in the literature on direct observations of manifest sexual behavior in early infancy. There are two reasons for this, one is psychoanalytic, the other experimental psychological.

1. The psychoanalytic reason: Ordinarily it is not the masturbatory activity as such which engages the psychoanalyst's attention, but rather the problems which it raises for the patient's psychic economy, such as guilt, anxiety, conflict (both intrapsychic and with the surround) and a variety of symptoms. In infancy these problems do not exist. At this age the psychic structure on which they are predicated, the division of the psyche into superego, ego, and id, has not yet taken place. Accordingly, intrapsychic conflict does not arise and neither do guilt, anxiety, or defense.

2. The experimental-psychological reason: Little has been reported on infantile masturbation in experimental psychological literature, for the experimental psychologist is accustomed to examine behavior in organized, coherent units, which form a pattern.

Infants in the first year of life, however, mostly are not yet capable of the directed, volitional behavior required for the pattern we call the masturbatory act. At this age a more or less random play with various parts of the body, of which the genital is one, can be observed.

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