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Developmental Tasks. Associated with Toddlerhood. Age range (18-36 months) Differentiation of self and object representations Integration of affectively distinct object representations ( object constancy) Increased sense of autonomy Anxiety over regression to symbiotic state

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developmental tasks

Developmental Tasks

Associated with Toddlerhood

Age range (18-36 months)
  • Differentiation of self and object representations
  • Integration of affectively distinct object representations ( object constancy)
  • Increased sense of autonomy
  • Anxiety over regression to symbiotic state
  • Beginning internalization of parental demands (superego formation)
  • Increased exploration of environment (↑locomotion)
  • Goal-corrected partnership (Bowlby)
mahler s theory of separation individuation

Mahler’s Theory of Separation-Individuation

4 Subphases

(overlapping with oral

and anal stages)

Differentiation (“hatching”) and the development of body image (4-10 months)
  • Practicing (9-15 months)
  • Rapprochement (15-24 months)
  • Consolidation of individuation and beginnings of emotional object constancy (20-36 months)
Internalization of constant, positively cathected, inner image of mother
  • Object permanence often precedes object constancy (A-B paradigm)
  • Stable self boundaries are attained
  • Unification of good and bad object into whole representation that is final achievement in development of mature object relationship ( influence of Klein)
  • Toddler able to use reliable internal image in mother’s physical absence—temporary separations lengthened and better tolerated
  • Mahler’s advances in communication (goal-corrected partnership)
Three examples
    • First girl could tolerate separation from mother even though she did not know where she was (secure attachment, p.113)
    • Boy held conflictual, ambiguous inner image of mother, wanting to avoid her (avoidant attachment, p.113)
    • Second girl could not tolerate even brief separation from mother (resistant attachment, p. 114)
  • Reunion behaviors of all three toddlers also predicted by attachment theory (p.114)
Need to believe in mother’s omnipotence (wish fulfillment and need gratification)
  • Need to protect oneself against reengulfment (regression to symbiotic phase) and be separate and omnipotent)
  • Integration of disparate representations diminishes ambivalence
Normality and deviance not clearly established—ambivalent behaviors considered normal by Mahler during rapprochement are considered deviant by attachment researchers
  • Attachment research suggests that ambivalence represents infants’ exaggerated attempt to attain feelings of security
  • Idea of psychopathology as fixation or arrested development is challenged
  • Different assumptions—individuation vs. attachment security
Decreased separation distress at separation  healthy self-assertion?
    • Secure toddlers more distressed than avoidant toddlers
    • Secure toddlers have more desirable outcomes
      • Persistence
      • Compliance
      • Peer competence
      • Autonomous problem-solving
      • Affective sharing
      • Requests for assistance
Lyons-Ruth calls for need to understand early interpersonal interactions as well as intrapsychic conflicts and defenses related to aggression and libido
    • For Mahler lack of separation distress signifies increased differentiation and integration of maternal object representation
    • For Lyons-Ruth lack of separation distress signifies defense against anxiety aroused by physical absence of mother
  • Perhaps “normal” ambivalence associated with split representations occurs earlier (e.g., 8-12 months; see Rogers et al., 1993)
Drug exposure will have negative impact on these developmental outcomes
  • Cumulative social-environmental risks will have greater negative impact than drug exposure per se on outcomes
  • Poor maternal communication will interact with drug-exposure status (biological vulnerability) to produce poorest outcomes
    • 28 methadone-exposed toddlers and a matched comparison group of 43 toddlers followed longitudinally from pregnancy to 24 months
    • Mothers administered instruments assessing the following (assessing cumulative risk)
      • WAIS Full-Scale IQ
      • Years of Education
      • SES
      • Severity of psychological stressors
      • Level of adaptive functioning
      • Quality of maternal communication (4,12,24 months)
    • Infants administered instruments assessing the following:
Bayley Scales of Infant Development—IBR (Infant Behavior Record)
        • Attention
        • Social resiliency
        • MDI (Mental Development Index)
      • Quality of infant communication (24 months)
      • Gender
  • Findings
    • No significant differences in outcome between drug-exposed and comparison toddlers
    • Stress, adaptive functioning, 24-month maternal communication, cumulative risk differed significantly for two groups
    • Cumulative risk significantly predicted MDI, attention, social resiliency, child communication in methadone group alone
Cumulative risk significantly predicted only child communication in comparison group alone
  • Maternal communication at 24 months significantly predicted child communication at 24 months. In both groups—no interaction effect
  • But interaction effect between drug-exposure status and maternal communication at 4 and 12 months on MDI, attention, and social resiliency assessed at 24 months (evidence for critical period of maternal communication and drug-exposure interaction effects?)
    • Structure of daily routines not assessed
    • Communication in home settings not assessed
    • Relationships with nonmaternal figures not assessed
    • Level of biological effects of exposure or amount of exposure not assessed