Some suggested revisions concerning early female development.

E. Galenson, H. Roiphe

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82 Scopus citations


In our view, Freud's original position that sexual drive organization exerts a special and exemplary role during the various psychosexual stages remains a valid one, although drive organization is in turn consistently and extensively influenced by events in the sphere of object relations. Very early genital-zone experiences during the first sixteen months of life contribute to a vague sense of sexual identity, and undoubtedly exert an influence over many ego functions. Some genital sensations probably occur consistently in conjunction with feeding, as well as during many other interactions of the mother and her young infant. With ongoing separation and individuation, the genital zone emerges as a distinct and differentiated source of endogenous pleasure somewhere between sixteen and nineteen months of age, exerting a new and crucial influence upon the sense of sexual identity, object relations, basic mood, and many aspects of ego functioning, such as the elaboration of fantasy and graphic representation in girls and the increased use of the motor apparatus in boys-the latter probably in the service of denial. This era constitutes an early genital phase, preceding that of the oedipal period, and the later oedipal constellation will inevitably be shaped by the preoedipal developments we have described. The discovery of the sexual difference and the new genital sensations of this early genital phase should not be considered merely as several of many variables that influence the growing sense of identity; they are unique, exemplary, and of equal importance to the oral and anal aspects of psychosexual development which have preceded them. Furthermore, the preoedipal castration reaction rapidly reactivates and becomes fused with earlier fears of both object and anal loss, and is therefore particularly threatening to the child's still unstable sense of self and object. In other publications, we have presented data from direct observational research indicating that the little girl's early relation with her mother, as well as her early bodily experiences, are important in determining the effect upon her when she discovers the sexual anatomical difference at about sixteen to eighteen months of age. At this juncture, depending upon the nature of her earlier experiences, as well as the availability of the father, she may either turn more definitively to the father, or she may remain even more ambivalently attached to the mother, a choice having fateful consequences for the oedipal constellation shortly to emerge.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-57
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of the American Psychoanalytic Association
Issue number5 Suppl
StatePublished - 1976
Externally publishedYes


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