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(p. 351) The Development of the Capacity for Concern 

(p. 351) The Development of the Capacity for Concern
(p. 351) The Development of the Capacity for Concern

Donald W. Winnicott

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date: 11 April 2021

This paper given to the Topeka Psychoanalytic Society, Kansas, addresses the development of the child’s capacity for concern. For Winnicott, concern is the opposite of guilt. He elaborates this by describing how the infant fuses the affectionate mother who provides a benign environment with the object-mother who arouses cruder instincts. Learning to manage this and to have a mother who understands and bears it enables the child eventually to recognize a living separate mother who survives his needy attacks and loves him in return. This baby can then begin to take responsibility for himself and his needs (integration of emotional life) and to be concerned for his mother. This is a repeated learning cycle throughout childhood and into adulthood. The mother’s failure to survive may create a failure of concern.

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