Comparable with the psychosexual view of development, object relations theory places emphasis upon early development as a decisive factor influencing later development. It is rooted in infant/mother studies conducted by Margaret Mahler. Psychoanalytic theorist Heinz Kohut expounded upon her theories to say children who do not experience the opportunity to differentiate themselves from others may later develop narcissistic character disorders.

Stages of Development:

Based on psychoanalytic concepts, Mahler presented three stages of development in the preoedipal phase of an infant (first 2 or 3 years) with the third stage broken down into 4 sub-categories:

1. Normal Autistic (newborn to 1 month) - baby is only aware of his/or her own needs.

2. Normal Symbiosis (1-5 months) - fusion with mother occurs.

3. Separation-Individuation

a. Differentiation (5-10 months) - baby may develop separation anxiety; needs reassurance that mother is still there even when not in view.

b. Practicing motor skills (10-16 months) - baby attempts crawling and exploring short distances away from mother; baby is most comfortable playing with mother in view.

c. Rapprochement (16-24 months) - "ambitendency" (child discovers that he/or she is an individual separate from mother which is both exciting and scary; e.g. child may run away from mother and defy her instructions but then come running right back and want to be held).

d. Constancy of self and object (24-36 months) - child develops "object constancy" - even though object is not in view, it still exists; because of this, separation from mother becomes a little bit easier.

Mahler published her theories in 1975, "The Psychological Birth of the Human Infant: Symbiosis and Individuation" with Fred Pine and Anni Bergman.