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(p. 183) Primary Maternal Preoccupation 

(p. 183) Primary Maternal Preoccupation
(p. 183) Primary Maternal Preoccupation

Donald W. Winnicott

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date: 30 July 2021

In this paper Winnicott describes a state following the birth of a child for every mother which he terms primary maternal preoccupation. He considers that in this post partum state the mother of an infant becomes biologically and psychologically conditioned for special orientation to the needs of her child. He notes that there are psychological differences between the mother’s identification with the infant, and the infant’s helpless dependence on the mother. Maternal failure can produce an experience of impingement which interrupts the ‘going on being’ of the infant. However if a mother is sensitized she can empathise with and meet the infant’s needs. In this early stage of development for the baby there is an ego-relatedness between both mother and child, from which the mother recovers, and the infant may then build the idea of a person in the mother. The mother’s failure to adapt in the earliest phase can be experienced as an annihilation of the infant’s self. However, what the mother does well is not apprehended by the infant at this stage.

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