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Fraiberg, S. (1969). Libidinal Object Constancy and Mental Representation. Psychoanal. St. Child, 24:9-47.

(1969). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 24:9-47

Contributions to Psychoanalytic Theory

Libidinal Object Constancy and Mental Representation

Selma Fraiberg


The concept of object constancy in psychoanalytic usage has been reviewed in its libidinal and cognitive aspects. There is agreement among psychoanalytic writers that the libidinal tie to the mother is formed during the first year of life and the term "object constancy" is employed by many psychoanalytic writers to designate the achievement of the libidinal bond. Where differences occur among psychoanalytic writers in defining the term "object constancy," these differences appear in the cognitive aspects of libidinal object relations. The mental representation of the mother is variously attributed to early and later phases of libidinal attachment, which suggests differences in definition of the term "mental representation." This essay suggests, following Piaget, that a distinction between "recognition memory" and "evocative memory" may clarify usage in psychoanalytic studies.

The problem of the hallucinatory experience of infancy was examined and an attempt was made to find correlates in the mental image of need states and the mental image of an object withdrawn from exteroceptive experience. A hypothesis was presented in which both sets of images are organized on a scale of coordinates with progressive autonomy from the stimulus or sign.

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