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Priel, B. (1985). On Mirror-Image Anxiety—An Observational Study. Psychoanal. St. Child, 40:183-193.

(1985). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 40:183-193

On Mirror-Image Anxiety—An Observational Study

Beatrice Priel, Ph.D.

When I look I am seen, so I exist.
—WINNICOTT (1967)

THE CHILD'S RECOGNITION AND UNDERSTANDING OF THE IDENTITY of the mirror image imply a capacity for self representation as well as a concept of the self as visible to others, just as others are visible to the child. In our culture children are exposed at a very early age to their own and their caretakers' reflections; observational studies have yielded clear evidence of self recognition at the end of the second year. Does familiarity with one's own and others' reflections play a role in a child's ability to identify the image as his or her own? Is this familiarity relevant to the emergence or construction of a representation of the body? What happens in this respect to those children who do not have mirrors in their environments?

Self recognition in the mirror is in fact a privileged technique used by those who study how the representation of the body develops during the first years of life, but, like any other technique, it introduces its own limitations: the specular image's characteristics—tridimensionality, synchronicity of movement, lack of path—confront the child with a series of problems.

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