Young Children and their Parents: Perspectives from Psychoanalytic Infant Observation

Author(s) : Gertraud Diem-Wille

Young Children and their Parents: Perspectives from Psychoanalytic Infant Observation

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The book describes, from a psychoanalytic perspective, the development of the parent-infant relationship in the first years of life. It follows the development of the child's relationship to his or her parents from birth until the end of the third year. The psychoanalytic understanding of earlier patterns of experience is expertly presented to the reader. For readers looking for an introduction to the many different psychoanayltical theories about the early years, this book offers a comprehensive guide to the most important directions.

Diem-Wille's experience as psychoanalyst, professor of education, and organising tutor of a university course for teachers, and as a mother and grandmother, all enrich her writing and contribute to the breadth of this remarkable book. The author combines consideration of the physical interwoven with the psycho-social development in the first, second and third years of life; she looks at the experience of the relationship at each stage from both the child's and the parent's perspective; and she discusses theory and gives hints to parents and teachers about how to observe the non-verbal communication of babies and children and respond to their needs. It is a book which will be of great value to parents, teachers, paediatricians and all those concerned with furthering the understanding of children.

Reviews and Endorsements

‘This book will be of great interest to a wide readership. The author’s objective has been to provide an overview of child development from a variety of perspectives. These include psychoanalytic theory (Freudian, contemporary Freudian, Kleinian, post-Kleinian, and Winnicottian), attachment theory, and recent work in development psychology and the neurosciences. Parents will find in this book much compassionate wisdom, in which insight never becomes dogmatic or self-righteous. They will also find a clear and accessible exposition of theory that is never presented in a patronising way. However, the book also has much to offer sophisticated professionals, not least its well-integrated synthesis of different theoretical strands in addition to the original research findings.’
—Maria Rhode, Emeritus Professor of Child Psychotherapy, the Tavistock Clinic, and University of East London

‘On the basis of many examples of the interaction between children and parents, the author demonstrates how the nature of the early relationship lays the foundation of the unique character of each individual’s experience of the world and him- or herself. Gertraud Diem-Wille’s approach to her subject is a novel and interesting one: starting with observations of three very different four year olds, she goes back to their births and to detailed observations of them in years one, two, and three to discover how they have come to develop into the personalities they are now. It is a book that will be of great value to parents, teachers, paediatricians, and all those concerned with furthering the understanding of children.’
—Isca Salzberger-Wittenberg, Consultant Psychotherapist, the Tavistock Clinic

‘This book provides a vivid account of the development of young children within their relationships with their parents. Gertraud Diem-Wille has an extensive knowledge and understanding of
psychoanalytic theory, attachment theory, and recent child development research. She is able to bring these different, but complementary, approaches together and show the reader how they can be used to illuminate observations of ordinary, everyday interactions as well as encounters in the clinical consulting room. This accessible book will be of interest to students, practitioners, and researchers in all these fields of study, as well as to any individual interested in the lived experience of parents and children.’
—Biddy Youell, Head of Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy, the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust

‘Closely observed interactions are at the heart of the matter in this book. The descriptions of the interactions and the actual behaviour of children in their surroundings bring alive the uniqueness of each person and the broad range of what is “normal”. This is a highly accessible book that will enjoy broad appeal to seasoned psychoanalysts as well as to students or parents. It is also an excellent book for an American audience, where the Tavistock method of infant observation is only beginning to become more widely known and integrated into training programmes. Gertraud Diem-Wille has made a rich contribution to the field.’
—Deborah Blessing, Core Faculty, Infant and Young Child Observation Training Program, Washington School of Psychiatry

About the Author(s)

Gertraud Diem-Wille is professor of psychoanalysis in education at the University of Klagenfurt. She is a training analyst for children, adolescents and adults of the Viennese Psychoanalytic Society and the International Psychoanalytical Association (IPA). She had pioneered and supported the training in psychoanalytic observational approaches to training in psychoanalysis and in educational fields. She is the Organising and Scientific Tutor of the PG MA in Psychoanalytic Observational Studies at the University of Klagenfurt. Her books include Das Kleinkind und seine Eltern (The Young Child and its Parents) and Die frühen Lebensjahre.

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