Pre-Oedipal and Oedipal Development

Integrated Child & Adult Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy (ICAPP)
2020-21, 2nd Block — Mondays, 8:00-9:15pm


As children move from infancy to latency/pre-adolescence multiple intersecting aspects of development occur—intense emotional experience of transformation in object relating, accommodation to reality (and associated mourning), capacity for ambivalence and greater affect tolerance (love, hate, rivalry), capacity for imaginary play and symbolic thought, mentalization (theory of mind), identification with aspects of both parents and the parental couple, core gender identity, racial/ethnic identity and the formation and consolidation of the superego and ego ideal. The implications of this early period of development truly reverberate throughout the lifespan.

We will explore early and contemporary ideas and theories as well as several papers that focus on clinical vignettes. In our last class we will consider how young children experience immigration, focusing specifically on forced/emergent migration which results in family separation and other forms of complex trauma. Throughout the class, I encourage you to bring in clinical examples from your own work to further our discussion. I welcome your feedback on the course and the readings as we proceed.

Learning Objectives

Participants will:

  1. assess the developmental experiences of their clients from a variety of perspectives and recognize how patterns of early experience dynamically affect the adult clinical situation.
  2. understand early and contemporary theories of pre-oedipal and oedipal development and how to apply these theories in a clinical context, in order to listen more sensitively and respond more accurately to patients, which will enhance treatment persistence and outcomes.
  3. recognize the effects of early relational trauma and better empathize with unbearable affect in order to facilitate improvement in patients’ reflective capacity, self-cohesion and affect regulation.

November 16, 2020 — Toddlerhood, Oedipal Development and the beginnings of Triadic Relations

[41 pages]

(I recommend reading Gilmore and Meersand first and then Britton).

Gilmore, K. and Meersand, P. (2015) Ch. 4, “The Oedipal Phase and the Oedipal Complex: Developmental Advances and Theoretical Considerations” in The Little Book of Child and Adolescent Development, pp71-100.

Britton, R. (1992). The Oedipus Situation and the Depressive Position. New Library of Psychoanalysis, 14:34-45.

Optional Reading

Gilmore, K. and Meersand, P. (2015) Ch. 3, “Toddlerhood: Separation-Individuation, Rapprochement, and the Forerunners of Superego Development” in The Little Book of Child and Adolescent Development, pp51-70.

Loewald, H. (1985). Oedipus complex and development of self. Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 54:435-443.

November 23, 2020 — Aggression and Mentalization

[34 pages]

Olesker, W. (2012). Aggression and Impulse Control in the Analysis of a Young Boy. Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 66:81-108.

Stop reading at the end of page 98.

Fonagy, P. (1995). Playing with reality: The development of psychic reality and its malfunction in borderline personalities. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 76:39-44.

November 30, 2020 — Superego and the Ego Ideal

[21 pages]

Tyson, P; Tyson, R. (1990). Development of the Superego. In Psychoanalytic Theories of Development: An Integration, New Haven: Ct. Yale University Press. pp 207-227

December 7, 2020 — Shame

[36 pages]

Schore, A. (2003). Early Superego Development: The Emergence of Shame and Narcissistic Affect Regulation in the Practicing Period, in Affect Regulation and the Repair of the Self, pp151-186

Optional Reading

Spero, M.H. (1984). Shame - An object-relational formulation. Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 39:259-282.

December 14, 2020 — Gender Identity

[40 pages]

(If you only have time to read one article, read Benjamin).

Benjamin, J. (1995). Sameness and Difference: Toward an “Overinclusive” Model of Gender Development. Psychoanal. Inq., 15(1):125-142.

Ehrensaft, D. (2018). “What’s your gender?”, In: C. Bonovitz and A. Harlem (Eds.), Developmental Perspectives in Child Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy, pp241-262

December 21, 2020 — Oedipal Dynamics in Adoption

[19 pages]

Edwards, J. (2000). On being dropped and picked up: Adopted children and their internal objects. Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 26(3):349-367.

January 4, 2021 — Divorce and Domestic Violence

[21 pages]

Lament, C. (2019). The impact of divorce on children: The view from the perch of adulthood. Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 72(1):16-23.

McIntosh, J.E. (2002) Thought in the face of violence: a child’s need. Child Abuse & Neglect, 26:229-241.

January 11, 2021 — Early Childhood Trauma related to Forced Migration

[22 pages]

Clauss-Ehlers, C. (2019). Forced migration among Latinx children and their families: Introducing trilateral migration trauma as a concept to reflect a forced migratory experience. Journal of Infant, Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy, 18(4):330-342.

Tummala-Narra, P. (2020) A Discussion of “Going to Where the World Ends: When the Bodies of Children Speak Who is Listening?” Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 30(2):193-201

The Editors (2019, July 18). Hear the Words of Detained Migrant Children, The New York Times. Retrieved from

New York children read the words of their peers held in U.S. Border Patrol facilities. (3:29 minutes)

Optional Reading

Orfanos, S. (2019). Drops of light into the darkness: Migration, immigration, and human rights. Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 29(3):269-283.

Matziaraki, D. (2016, September 28). 4.1 Miles: A coast guard captain on a small Greek island is suddenly charged with saving thousands of refugees from drowning at sea, The New York Times. Retrieved from

The Orfanos article and video are related.

Laub, D. (2013). On leaving home and the flight from Trauma. Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 23(5):568-580.