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Encephale. 1994 Mar-Apr;20(2):121-9.

[Separation anxiety. Theoretical considerations].

[Article in French]

Author information

1
Centre d'Information et de Traitement des D├ępendances, CHRU, Lille.

Abstract

The interest in separation anxiety is nowadays increasing: this disorder appearing during childhood may predispose to the occurrence of anxiety disorders (such as panic disorder and agoraphobia) and major depression into adulthood. Psychoanalytic theories differ on the nature of separation anxiety and its place in child development. For some authors, separation anxiety must be understood as resulting from the unconscious internal conflicts inherent in the individuation process and gradual attainment of autonomy. From this point of view, the fear of loss of mother by separation is not regarded as resulting from a real danger. However, Freud considers the primary experience of separation from protecting mother as the prototype situation of anxiety and compares the situations generating fear to separation experiences. For him, anxiety originates from two factors: the physiological fact is initiated at the time of birth but the primary traumatic situation is the separation from mother. This point of view may be compared with behavioral theories. Behavioral theories suggest that separation anxiety may be conditioned or learned from innate fears. In Freud's theory, the primary situation of anxiety resulting from the separation from mother plays a role comparable to innate fears. Grappling with the problem of separation anxiety, Bowlby emphasizes then the importance of the child's attachment to one person (mother or primary caregiver) and the fact that this attachment is instinctive. This point of view, based on the watch of infants, is akin to ethological theories on behaviour of non human primates. Bowlby especially shows that the reactions of infant separated from mother evolve on three stages: the phase of protestation which may constitute the prototype of adulthood anxiety, the phase of desperation which may be the prototype of depression, and the phase of detachment. He emphasizes so the role of early separations in the development of vulnerability to depression. For Bowlby, these reactions are not acquired but genetically programmed and biologically determined.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

PMID:
8050378
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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