Saturday 6 Jun 2020

Current Issues

Articles and Papers

Melanie Klein
Melanie Klein

Well Known Figures in Psychoanalysis

Psychoanalysis Ireland


Well Known Figures in Psychoanalysis

John Bowlby (1907 - 1990)

JOHN BOWLBY (1907 – 1990)
Bowlby initially became interested in psychoanalysis while studying medicine in Cambridge. As a result of this interest he temporarily halted his medical studies to work in a psychoanalytically oriented special school. Bowlby’s experience in this school led him to an interest in exploring the way family influences affect the child’s development. He completed his medical training and went on to specialize in psychiatry and was accepted into the British Psychoanalytic Society as an analysand in training. His psychoanalyst was Joan Rivière.
In The Influence of Early Environment in the development of neurosis and neurotic character (1940) Bowlby expressed the view that psychoanalysis was overemphasizing the child's fantasy world and taking too little account of actual events. Bowlby emphasised the effects of early separation and actual family circumstances on the development of later psychological difficulties. Bowlby would go on to develop these ideas further after the war.
In 1945 Bowlby came to work at the Tavistock Clinic, becoming head of the Children's Department, but went on to found his own clinic because of his discomfort with the mainly Kleinian orientation of the Tavistock. It was at this stage that Bowlby began more focused research on the question of mother-child separation and its effects. In collaboration with James Robertson, and in relation to his research on what would become Attachment Theory, Bowlby made a ground-breaking film, A two-year-old goes to hospital (Robertson and Bowlby 1952, Robertson 1953), which had the effect of radically changing the way children were treated in hospitals.
It was to the British Psychoanalytic Society in 1957 in a paper entitled The Nature of the Child's Tie to his Mother that Bowlby first presented his thoughts on Attachment Theory. The paper caused quite a disturbance in the society as it seemed to go against much of the accepted psychoanalytic theory. That paper was followed by one on Separation Anxiety in 1959 and then Grief and Mourning in infancy and early childhood which was presented to the Psychoanalytic Society in 1959 and published in 1960. Jeremy Holmes has written a biography of Bowlby (John Bowlby and Attachment Theory (1993) London: Routledge). This book reviews Bowlby’s life and work and the application and implications of his thinking in psychoanalysis, child psychiatry and sociology.

Selected Works:
The Nature of the Child's Tie to his Mother (1957) Separation Anxiety (1959) Grief and Mourning in Infancy and Early Childhood (1959)
Further Reading:
John Bowlby and Attachment Theory, by Jeremy Holmes (1993)
« Back to Biography Listing
Website by Host Ireland