World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Edith Jacobson

Article Id: WHEBN0010177947
Reproduction Date:

Title: Edith Jacobson  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Psychoanalysis, Love and hate (psychoanalysis), Psychotherapists, Id, ego and super-ego, Libido
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Edith Jacobson

Edith Jacobson
Born (1897-09-10)September 10, 1897
Haynau, German Empire
Died December 8, 1978(1978-12-08) (aged 81)
Rochester, New York
Residence Germany, U.S.
Nationality German
Fields Psychoanalysis
Institutions Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute, New York Psychoanalytic Society and Institute
Known for Revised drive theory
Part of a series of articles on
Unoffical psychoanalysis symbol

Edith Jacobson (German: Edith Jacobssohn; September 10, 1897 – December 8, 1978) was a German psychoanalyst. Her major contributions to psychoanalytic thinking dealt with the development of the sense of identity and self-esteem and with an understanding of depression and psychosis. She was able to integrate the tripartite structural model of classic psychoanalysis with the theory of object relations into a revised drive theory. Thereby, she increased the treatment possibilities of the more disturbed pre-oedipal patients.


Edith Jacobson was a [2] In 1934 she became a training analyst at the Berlin Institute.

In 1935 the [2] Shortly after her escape, she emigrated to the U.S., where she soon became a member of the New York Psychoanalytic Society and Institute.[3] In America she became a training analyst and a teacher.[1]

Jacobson’s theoretical and clinical work was about ego and superego functioning, the processes of identification underlying the development of ego and superego, and the role of the ego and superego in depression. In her writings, she tries to construct an overarching developmental perspective. This perspective would do justice to drives and to real objects and their representations in building up the ego and superego. Jacobson was interested in the fate of self-representations in depressive and psychotic patients. She introduced the concept of self-representation with Heinz Hartmann. In 1964's The Self and the Object World, she presented a revised drive theory.[1]

Revised drive theory

Jacobson was the first theorist to attempt to integrate drive theory with structural and object relations theory in a comprehensive, developmental synthesis, and her influence on subsequent work in this area has been profound.[1] Jacobson built on the contributions of Anna Freud, Heinz Hartmann, René Spitz, and Margaret Mahler. In 1964 she wrote The Self and the Object World, in which she revised Sigmund Freud's theory about the psychosexual phases in the development, and his conceptualizations of id, ego, and superego.

General Concepts of the revised drive theory

In Freud’s point of view, drives were innate, while the ego psychologists emphasized the influence of the environment. Jacobson found a way to bridge the gap between those points of view. According to Jacobson, biology and experience mutually influence each other, and interact throughout the development.[4]

In accordance with Hartmann, Jacobson proposed that the instinctual drives are not innate ‘givens’, but biological predisposed, innate potentials. These potentials get their distinctive features in the context of the early experiences of the child. From birth on, experiences will be registered as pleasurable (‘feeling good’) or unpleasurable (‘feeling bad’).[5] A balance in subjective feeling states in the early experiences of the child will contribute to the harmonious development of the libido and aggressive drive. The libido will emerge from experiences of feeling good and normally there will be less aggression. However, if early experiences are particularly frustrating, the aggressive drive might disturb the normal development.[6] The libido helps integrating images of good and bad objects and good and bad self. Aggression, on the other hand, facilitates separation and establishing different images of self and others. Libido and aggression cannot function without each other. Libido promotes pulling together, and aggression moving out. Libido and aggression are necessary to build a stable identity by integrating experiences from the environment.[7]

Jacobson articulated that experiences are subjective, which means that there is no good mothering, but only mothering that feels good to a particular baby. It is all about ‘affective matching’ between mother and child, in which factors like baby’s temperament, fit or misfit between baby and mother and the mother’s capacity to respond adequately to the baby’s needs, play an important role.[6]

Development of the child

The early psychic state of a child is undifferentiated, with no clear boundaries between the inner self and the outer world. Libido and aggression are not experienced as distinct drives.[8] Because a newborn cannot differentiate between self and others, the earliest images are fused and confused. Jacobson proposed – in agreement with René Spitz – that experiences, whether they are good or bad, will accumulate in a child’s psyche. These earliest images form the groundwork for later subjective feelings of self and others and will serve as a filter through which one will interpret new experiences.[6]

At the age of approximately 6 months a baby is capable of differentiating between self and others.[6] Gradually, the aggressive and libidinal components also become more differentiated, which leads to new structural systems: the ego and the superego.[9] In the second year, there is a gradual transition to individuation and ego autonomy, in which the representations of the child become more realistic.[10] The child discovers its own identity and learns to differentiate wishful from realistic self and object images. The Superego develops over a long time and becomes consolidated during adolescence.[11]

In normal development, there is a balance between libido and aggression, which lead to a mature differentiation between self and other. However, a lack of balance between libido and aggression could lead to weak boundaries between self and other, which can be observed in psychotic patients.[12] Also with regard to the development of the Ego and Superego Jacobson stressed the role of parental influence as crucial.[13] Parental love is the best guarantee for a normal ego and superego development, but also frustrations and parental demands make a significant contribution to the development of an effective, independently functioning and self-reliant Ego.[14]


  • The Self and the Object World, (1964).
  • Psychotic Conflict and Reality, (1967).
  • Depression: comparative studies of normal, neurotic, and psychotic conditions, (1971).


  1. ^ a b c d Edith Jacobson at
  2. ^ a b Edith Jacobson at Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing
  3. ^ Tuttman, Edith Jacobson’s major contributions to psychoanalytic theory of development, pp. 136
  4. ^ Mitchell & Black, Freud and Beyond, pp. 49
  5. ^ Jacobson, The Self and the Object World, pp. 11
  6. ^ a b c d Mitchell & Black, Freud and Beyond, pp. 50
  7. ^ Mitchell & Black, Freud and Beyond, pp. 52
  8. ^ Tuttman, Edith Jacobson’s major contributions to psychoanalytic theory of development, pp. 136, 139
  9. ^ Tuttman, Edith Jacobson’s major contributions to psychoanalytic theory of development, pp. 137
  10. ^ Tuttman, Edith Jacobson’s major contributions to psychoanalytic theory of development, pp. 140
  11. ^ Jacobson, The Self and the Object World, pp. 171
  12. ^ Tuttman, Edith Jacobson’s major contributions to psychoanalytic theory of development, pp. 137-139
  13. ^ Tuttman, Edith Jacobson’s major contributions to psychoanalytic theory of development, pp. 141-142
  14. ^ Jacobson, The Self and the Object World, pp. 55

See also

Drive Theory
Object relations theory
Id, ego, and superego
Sigmund Freud
Anna Freud
Heinz Hartmann


  • Jacobson, E. (1964). The Self and the Object World. London: the Hogarth Press.
  • Mitchell, S.A., and Black, M.J. (1995). Freud and Beyond. New York: Basic Books.
  • Tuttman, S. (1985). Edith Jacobson’s major contributions to psychoanalytic theory of development. The American journal of Psychoanalysis, 45, 135-147.

External links

  • American Psychoanalytic Association
  • Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.