Chris L. Minnick, M.D.

Self-Regulatory Maneuvers for Infants: A Brief Introduction to Barry Brazelton, M.D.

A Brief Introduction to Barry Brazelton, M.D.:

Barry Brazelton was a developmental pediatrician who did mother-infant research starting in the late 1940’s and 1950’s. He often described the infant as having a very small array of mechanisms for coping with distress in life. This array of maneuvers included, most notably: Crying, pooping, peeing, spitting up, sneezing, staring fixedly at something, and going to sleep. It is interesting to note that these are all visible reactions of the infant that can be observed in response to noxious stimuli.

Underneath each of these behaviors, one can imagine a psychic component, a phantasy in the infant regarding what he is achieving by the physical, bodily action. For the most part, these actions seem to be ‘evacuative’ in nature. Therefore, they suggest an underlying phantasy of putting the noxious experience outside oneself. The final two maneuvers, staring fixedly and going to sleep, seem to suggest a phantasy of escaping the distressing experience, perhaps even trying to deny his existence.

I mention Brazelton’s observations because they seem to be the same as Klein’s core defensive maneuvers of projection and denial, and also hint at the operation of the “organ of attention.” The primary difference is that, as a pediatrician, Brazelton is describing observable behaviors of infants, while Klein is suggesting the unconscious phantasies of the infant attendant to the behaviors.