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Massie, H. Bronstein, A.A. Afterman, J. (1988). Inner Themes and Outer Behaviors in Early Childhood Development—A Longitudinal Study. Psychoanal. St. Child, 43:213-242.

(1988). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 43:213-242

Inner Themes and Outer Behaviors in Early Childhood Development—A Longitudinal Study

Henry Massie, M.D., Abbot A. Bronstein, Ph.D. and Joseph Afterman, M.D.


A principal reason that we conducted much of the early observation and filming in a naturalistic setting like the pediatric well-baby clinic was to learn the kinds of parent-infant phenomena predictive of later development that can be recognized there. This site is one of the very few places that child care professionals routinely meet young families. With the project findings in mind, we now have a better understanding of the importance of what can be seen in infancy so that we can begin to refine therapeutic interventions in order to prevent severe distortions of development in the child.

At the beginning of this report we described how we designed this study to redress some of the gaps existing in developmental research. Specifically, we wanted to correlate a careful understanding of the mother's personality with the actual behaviors she brought to her interactions with her baby, and we wanted to correlate close observation of patterns of mother-infant interaction with the child's subsequent emotional growth. Doing this has provided an eyeful of visual impressions and an earful of ideas. Together they create an array of meanings. Perhaps none of these is more important than recognizing that preverbal experiences that occur in mother-baby interactions form enduring patterns that can be discerned early in life, and viewed years later in an altered derivative but equivalent shape when the youngster can also express them in relation to other people, and in language, fantasy, and activity. Likewise, as part of this evolution, we have been able to see how parents do transmit their conflicts to their children by expressing them, at the most primitive level, in their actions with their

babies. The child adjusts to the parents' world in this process, with the possibility of a relatively broad band of adaptation. Nonetheless, the adaptations the children in our study make are at different functional levels.

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