While many of Mahler's theoretical formulations of infant mental life have been revised by infant and attachment research, Mahler's influence has been far-reaching. Her pioneering observational studies alerted analytic and developmental theorists to the importance of the infant-caregiver relationship in the development of the self. Her clinical observations in early childhood have led to new understandings in the disturbances of the self, seen in psychotic, narcissistic, and borderline phenomena. Theoretically, she shifted the focus away from attachment as an emotional connection occurring from the satisfaction of hunger and other biological needs, by placing relationships in a central role in development. The task now is to continue the revision and extension of psychoanalytic thought in light of infant and attachment research. Researchers will then be in a better position to understand how the self evolves and develops within the cultural contexts that shape its development.
See also: ATTACHMENT: PARENT-CHILD RELATIONSHIPS; BOUNDARY DISSOLUTION; CHILDHOOD, STAGES OF: INFANCY; CHILDHOOD, STAGES OF: MIDDLE CHILDHOOD; CHILDHOOD, STAGES OF: PRESCHOOL; CHILDHOOD,
STAGES OF: TODDLERHOOD; CHILDREN OF ALCOHOLICS; DEVELOPMENT: SELF; FATHERHOOD; MOTHERHOOD; SEPARATION ANXIETY
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MERYL J. BOTKIN