Human Development: Child Development I (Birth to Age 5)

Welcome to our course on Child Development (Birth to age 5). This course is the didactic complement to the Year Two Infant Observation course and we expect to refer to last year’s rich array of observations to illustrate and deepen our understanding of the concepts we will explore this trimester.

Sigmund Freud’s curiosity and theorizing about how childhood was linked to suffering and joy in adulthood led to the idea of developmental progression and therapeutic intervention. Early child psychoanalysis, developed by Melanie Klein and Anna Freud, and based in nuanced observation and clinical work, focused attention on the internal dynamics of infants and young children as well as the importance of their relational and social contexts. These foundational theorists set the stage for decades of observational research and psychoanalytic exploration, all of which has led to our contemporary understanding of attachment, developmental progression, affect regulation, object relations, identity formation, projective processes and neurobiology.

During this class, we will examine this topic from a variety of vantage points with the goal of providing a nuanced and multilayered contemporary understanding of child development rooted in a historical psychoanalytic context.  Throughout the course, we will apply our learning to the adult clinical situation.

Theory: British Object Relations

Explanation and Requirements of Course:

British Object Relations is a theory born from creative and political controversy. It is also a living theory insofar as it continues to evolve with many branches born from the same trunk. There are many excellent thinkers within the larger Object Relations tradition that we will not be covering. Our intention with this short course is to provide you with the fundamental building blocks of the theory. Our rational is that if you have a working-sense of the fundamentals you can choose further studies from an informed position. Having taught this theory for many years we have come to the conclusion that it is best to go with a “less is more” approach. The theory is actually quite elegantly simple but when first encountered it can feel implausible, overwhelming and unruly.

It is our expectation that you will read the article(s) for each class at least two times, three times would be ideal. This allows for optimal learning and informed discussion.

Reflection Papers – Associates will be asked to write and turn in a one page reflection paper each week on the assigned readings. The purpose of this paper is to help facilitate integration of the material. It is NOT meant to be conclusive or academic but rather an opportunity to interact with the readings in a manner that is meaningful to you. Each student decides for him/herself what will be most useful, i.e. the paper could consist of questions that arise for you from the readings, or you may wish to elaborate your own thinking in regards to one of the themes, or you may want to write about a case that you think might illustrate some of the key points of that week’s topic. The Instructors will offer written reflections on each paper and will return the papers to each student the following week. Papers may also be used to inform our discussion during the seminar.