Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Theories and Methods - Mahler

Margaret Mahler was a Hungarian-born psychoanalyst who worked with disturbed youth and developed the separation-individuation theory of child development. In Mahler's theory, young children pass through a series of stages, each of which has an associated task or action (similar to Erikson's stages that way):
  • Normal Autistic Phase (First few weeks of life; achieve equilibrium)
  • Normal Symbiotic Phase (Up till around 5 months old; develop dim awareness of caretaker)
  • Separation-Individuation Phase (divided into three phases:)
    • Hatching (5-10 months; exit autistic shell)
    • Practicing (10-16 months; locomotion and accompanying anxiety about separateness)
    • Rapprochement (16-24 months; mobility, language, reuniting)
Mahler proposes that, if the process of separation-individuation goes awry, a reliable sense of individual identity in the adult is compromised.

Will Margaret Mahler show up on the social work exam? Don't count on it. But...it's not unheard of. Good luck.

For further review: Margaret Mahler at Wikipedia; chart of stages via PsyEd.org

2 comments:

April Harter said...

Great blog. Thank you!

Anonymous said...


The practice exam had a question about a teenager not wanting to hang out with this family- the answer was "separation-individuation" because it continues into adolescence although most of the resources I found stop at the young childhood and don't mention continuation into teenage years.