René Spitz

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]


René Árpád Spitz (1887, Vienna - November 11, 1974, Denver) was an American psychoanalyst of Hungarian origin. Fleeing Nazi Germany, he settled in the United States and worked at the University of Denver.

His interest was in the relationship between mother and child. He developed the concepts of hospitalism and anaclitic depression, starting from the emotional deficiencies which he observed in the child and their consequences on its psycho-emotional development.

In 1957 he filmed the seminal film Psychogenic Disease in Infancy showing examples of children with insecure attachment resulting from hospitalism.

Ego development

Spitz noted three organising principles in the psychological development of the child:

  • the smiling response, which appears at around three months old in the presence of an unspecified person;
  • anxiety in the presence of a stranger, around the eighth month;
  • semantic communication, in which the child learns how to be obstinate, which the psychoanalysts connect to the obsessional neurosis.

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