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March 30: Psychoanalysis for Kids

March 30, 2013

Melanie-kleinMelanie Klein, the first person to use traditional psychoanalysis with young children, was born in Austria on this date in 1882. Klein became a psychoanalyst after World War I and moved to Great Britain in 1926, where she remained until her death in 1960. She was a lay psychoanalyst, without academic degrees, in a field dominated by male physicians, and although she was fundamentally a believer in Freudian theory, Klein had a great deal of personal and theoretical conflict with Sigmund and Anna Freud, which precipitated a split in the British Psychoanalytic Society. Klein worked with children as young as 2, and saw their play as their primary way of expressing emotions; she innovated in the use of dolls, drawing, toys, etc. to unveil children’s psyches. She is considered one of the major developers of “object relations theory,” which emphasizes the primacy of interpersonal relations, especially between mother and child in infancy, in influencing people’s relationships in the present (as opposed to the Freudian emphasis on intrapsychic drives).

“[F]eelings of love and gratitude arise directly and spontaneously in the baby in response to the love and care of his mother. The power of love — which is the manifestation of the forces which tend to preserve life — is there in the baby as well as the destructive impulses, and finds its first fundamental expression in the baby’s attachment to his mother’s breast, which develops into love for her as a person.”—Melanie Klein

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