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René Spitz and the mother-son relationship during childhood

René Spitz stood out for his research focused on the mother-child relationship. However, what led you to dedicate yourself to this?

René Spitz was an American psychoanalyst doctor who made very interesting contributions on the topic of early relationships, specifically between the mother and child relationship.

Initially, Spitz studied medicine and when he discovered the work of Sigmund Freud, he changed his course towards the universe of psychoanalysis. In fact, during his time of study, Spitz met with Freud to analyze his personality, since he wanted to delve deeper into himself to become a good psychoanalyst.

Although his career was interrupted due to the First World War, four years after it ended he resumed it. His goal was to become a teacher. He wanted to share the knowledge he had acquired about himself to help others know themselves. and become psychoanalysts. However, the entire essence of his work was concentrated in an essential stage of human life: childhood.

René Spitz, a highly esteemed teacher

In 1926, Spitz became a member of the Viennese Psychoanalytic Society. Four years later, he continued the research he was conducting by joining a new society, the German Psychoanalytic Society. It was not until 1932 when he began to work as a teacher in Paris.

René Spitz’s work as a teacher and his passion for psychology made him become a teacher highly esteemed by all his students.

As time went by, his research continued to advance.. However, it was after the war and his move to America that she began to become interested in the mother-son relationship during childhood.

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In fact, After being hired as a professor at the University of Colorado, he began working with orphaned children. to answer questions such as: How does a child feel who does not have parents and who has not had a family (as this concept is understood)?

Anaclitic depression and hospitalism

The research that René Spitz carried out allowed the birth of two new concepts:

Anaclitic depression. Hospitalism.

Anaclitic depression is a term that refers to depressive symptoms that children present during the first months of life. This is due to the prolonged separation from the mother and the lack of emotional care that this situation entails.

On the other hand, hospitalism refers to the urgent admission that a mother may require and that forces her to separate from her son. This situation could cause anaclitic depression in babies, a term that we have already addressed.

In addition to all the studies he carried out, René Spitz also made reports and published in well-known magazines related to his field of research, such as The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child. His work had such an impact that he was named president of the Denver Psychoanalytic Society in 1962.

As we see, René Spitz made very important contributions to treating the mother-child relationship during childhood. Likewise, he was the first author to assess the presence of psychiatric problems in children, since until now these were only taken into account in the adult population.

As a curiosity, we can say that His work complements perfectly that of Bowlby. For this reason, in many publications these two authors are treated together.

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Stages of development of Rene Spitz

Spitz designed a developmental system based on direct observation of children with their mothers. In it he explains development in terms of object relations.

Preobjectal stage (or – 3 months)

It begins from birth and ends when the first organizer, which is the smile, appears. The objectless stage coincides with primary narcissism, since the perception, activity and functions of a newborn are not sufficiently organized. At this stage, the child does not know how to distinguish one “thing” from another. He cannot distinguish a thing (external) from his own body and does not experience something separate from it. Therefore he also perceives his mother’s breast as a part of himself.

Precursor Object Stage (3 – 7 months)

The precursor object is the human face, it is called a precursor because the child does not recognize the specific face of a person, But the figures do catch your attention, contours that stand out from the face, such as the nose, mouth, eyes, etc. In the third month of life, the child responds to the face by smiling. If some conditions are met, these would be that the face moves from the front, so that the things that attract attention stand out (eyes, mouth, etc.) and that This one has mobility.

Real object stage (8 – 12 months)

Crying in front of strangers indicates that the child already differentiates the mother from other people. He knows that she is the one who takes care of him, protects him from others, gives him food, and loves him. And that is why when the mother is present, the fear of her anguish arises, of losing her. The second organizer would be anxiety and this is the difference between libidinal and aggressive activity.

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The mother-child relationship according to René Spitz

René Spitz investigated how early separation from the mother during the first months of life affected children. The psychoanalyst concluded that the lack of protection, affection and attachment could lead to death due to the anaclitic depression that some children could suffer.

Therefore, what happened to children who were orphans or whose mothers separated from them and did not attend to their needs? Apparently, as they grew up they became more violent, insecure, cold and distant towards others.

Besides, Spitz believed that it was very likely that these children would reproduce the behavior that their mothers had with their children.. Therefore, for him the time that can be dedicated to the little ones was very important. In fact, he left us the following phrase:

“Even if you are very busy, you should always have time to make someone feel important.”

As we see, Meeting Freud was a before and after in the life of René Spitz. The beginning of a life dedicated to psychoanalysis and research into the relationship between children and their mothers during childhood. In fact, his work continues to be consulted today by many researchers.

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