Margaret Mahler Autism and Symbiotic Psychosis Margaret Mahler (1897-1985) • • • • Born in 1897 Raised in Hungary Mother favored her younger sister Considered this the first mother-infant pair she observed • Child psychoanalytic psychologist • Developmental psychologist Education • Educated in Hungary and Germany • Specialized in Pediatrics • Recognized for her work with psychotic children • Therapeutic Nursery at the Master’s Children’s Center in New York • Worked with Anna Freud Theory • Separation-Individuation • Phases Our Study Infantile Autism • Hypothesis is Freudian: quasi-sociobiological - Survival Instinct - Need for dependence on another’s care • There are factors of nature - way that child receives and responds to internal and external stimuli • There are factors of nurture - symbiotic partner serves as buffer to the internal and external stimuli for the child • Combination: The symbiotic partner serving as an organizer and buffer for stimuli assists the child in forming boundaries and developing sensory perceptions. Infantile Autism • • • • Child is unable to perceive Gestalt of mother and her vital functioning on child’s behalf No distinctions between inner and outer world No distinctions between self and inanimate environment Turning away from outside world can be 1. Inborn 2. Acquired Defense • Unaware of primary caregiver as having a relation to self, just part of environment Symbiotic Psychosis • Second undifferentiated stage • Delusional omnipotent symbiotic fusion with need-satisfying object or person • Sees primary caregiver as an inseparable part of self • Partial or complete loss of identity • Alienation and withdrawal from reality James • Activities – Play dough – Blocks – Puzzle – Book • First time, activities were performed with mother • Second time, activities were performed with sister Mary and Claire • Activities – Game: Monkey Jumble – Book – Game: Zingo – Clean up • Activities were performed with mother • An Activity was performed with Elizabeth • • • • • • • • Mother-Infant Bond—the relationship between a mother and her child; according to Mahler, it should naturally be strong at first and as the child matures, the child should become more independent Independence—child can accomplish tasks without his or her mother acting as the guide through every step (though independence is attained through the support of the mother during the formative stages of early childhood) Symbiotic Psychosis—Mahler’s term for a disorder in which a child forms a relationship with its mother or caretaker such that the child is afraid to separate from the caretaker and become independent Normal Autistic Phase—occurs from the moment of birth up until the end of the first month; the child seems oblivious to the outside world because of a natural protection by an internal stimulus barrier, broken by moments when the newborn is quietly alert of his or her surroundings; outer sensations as a whole are unimportant to the child Normal Symbiotic Phase---occurs within the first 5 months of the child’s life; the mother and child are essentially one Separation/Individuation—an elongated phase that ranges from 5 months to 30 months of age and refers to the child’s gradual development as an independent individual Practicing—phase between 9 to 12 months and begins with the child’s ability to crawl; beginning of a time of exploration; the mother’s attitude is extremely important at this time Rapprochement—phase that occurs between 15 to 24 months when the child begins to notice the mother in a different way because the child becomes torn between the desire for autonomy and wanting and needing the mother; according to Mahler, this is a time of indecision that serves as a bridge toward the child’s independence. This phase is resolved with the acquisition of language.