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Understanding Autism: Implications for Psychoanalysis

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Several lines of evidence inform current psychoanalytic thinking about infantile autism. Although early psychoanalytic interest in autism centered around the notion that experience might play a role in pathogenesis a large body of data suggest this is not the case; rather the condition appears to be the result of genetic and other neurobiological factors. Studies of children with autism do, however, suggest basic problems in capacities for object relations and other aspects of ego development which must be understood in the context of autistic social dysfunction. The study of normally developing infants raises considerable questions about the validity of notions such as a normal autistic phase; rather than for the normally developing child interest in the social world appears to be an innate capacity and one which has considerable importance for our understanding of the nature of early ego development and capacities for self-object differentiation.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Yale University

Publication date: December 15, 2000

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