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Roiphe, H. Galenson, E. (1973). The Infantile Fetish. Psychoanal. St. Child, 28:147-166.

(1973). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 28:147-166

The Infantile Fetish

Herman Roiphe, M.D. and Eleanor Galenson, M.D.


In each of the children we have described, the appearance of the infantile fetish in the second year of life was preceded by definite indications of a sexual arousal, the observation of the anatomical difference between the sexes, and a distinct and prominent castration reaction. We have, therefore, been able to demonstrate that there is a true infantile fetish, which has a clear dynamic continuity with the fetish arising later in life. The fetish serves to define and supplement the body schema, particularly the genital outline of the body. This reparative construct is precipitated and split off as a result of the undermining of the sense of body integrity which follows from the observation of the anatomical difference between the sexes at a time in life when the genitals have already assumed a distinct narcissistic importance in the general body schema.

It may even be that the infantile fetish and fetishistic phenomena are much more common than we have tended to think. Perhaps in all but the most severe castration reactions of early life, the young

child's reliance on the fetish as a supplement to the body schema is ultimately diffused through its extension into play, fantasy, character formations, and other less tangible and concrete defensive forms. It may be that the fetish goes on to become an obligate prop to later sexual functioning only in those children who experience some further major castration insults during the oedipal phase.

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