Winnicott's Three Stages of Development


Winnicott has identified three stages of development.

The stage of Absolute Dependency
The stage of Relative Dependency
and Towards Independence

The first stage in the child is matched in the mother by “primary maternal preoccupation”. In the early emotional development of every infant the infant is dependent on the physical provision of the mother of her womb and infant care.The infant possesses all that is inherited , including their own innate potential for the process of maturation and pathological inherited trends and no one can alter these genetic features. The whole maturational process depends for it’s evolution on the environmental position. That is to say that the environment does not make the child but at best allows it to realise it’s true potential. Exactly how much depends on how you view the “Nature v Nurture” arguments.
The term “Maturational Processes” refers to development of the “ego” and of the “self” and includes the “story” of the “Id”, of instincts and defences in the “ego” relative to the instinct.
So when parents produce a baby they have started a development process where at first the baby is a “lodger” in the woman’s body, then her arms and then in the home.What the child becomes depends on the development of these maturational processes.If these processes are not blocked but are met and allowed to become part of the child then the child has more chance to develop in a psychologically healthy way.
The way parents, particularly mum adapt to the demands of this process is demanding but does not demand perfection   and Winnicott talks about being a “good enough” mother.

In this first stage of Absolute dependency the mother is totally preoccupied with the infant and focused on it’s every need; with the result that the infant has illusions of omnipotence and if she continues to be empathic and responsive she maintains this primary narcissm. The infant is only...