Margaret Mahler

By: Abby Michelle Timm-Haworth


May 10, 1897 to October 2, 1985

Lived in Sopron, Hungary

Where there work was completed:

In 1950 she joined the staff of the Albert Einstein School of Medicine and was the chairmanship of the child analysis training program, which she continued into the 1960's. Some of the candidates that trained under her are James Delano, Stewart Finch and Saul Harris.

Developmental Area of Focus:

  1. Normal Autistic Phase - First few weeks of life. The infant is detached and self-absorbed. Spends most of his/her time sleeping. Mahler later abandoned this phase, based on new findings from her infant research. She believed it to be non-existent. The phase still appears in many books on her theories.
  2. Normal Symbiotic Phase - Lasts until about 5 months of age. The child is now aware of his/her mother but there is not a sense of individuality. The infant and the mother are one, and there is a barrier between them and the rest of the world.
  3. Separation-Individuation Phase - The arrival of this phase marks the end of the Normal symbolic Phase. Separation refers to the development of limits, the differentiation between the infant and the mother, where as individuation refers to the development of the infant's ego, sense of identity, and cognitive abilities. Mahler explains how a child with the age of a few months breaks out of an “autistic shell” into the world with human connections. This process, separation-individuation, is divided into subphases.

Developmental Area: Mental