ABSTRACT

The data from neonate research pose an exciting challenge to psychoanalytic theory. Before 1960, except to a few pioneers such as Spitz, Benjamin, Fries, Wolf, and others, research on the neonate seemed an esoteric subject and an unpromising source of information for conceptualizing detailed aspects of human development. Since 1960, publications on neonates have grown from a trickle to a flood. Monographs and books now regularly appear, detailing the latest ingenious experiments. Our view of the newborn human has changed accordingly. Instead of a“blooming, buzzing confusion” (James, 1890), a state of undifferentiation, or a tabula rasa, we see an organism whose internal states and capacities for behavioral regulation are already rather complex. From the findings of the new research, neonates emerge as much closer to the tiny replicas of self that delight their parents than to the not-yet-psychologically meaningful, tension-discharging organisms postulated by classical analytic theory.