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Donald Winnicott (1896–1971), the British pediatrician and psychoanalyst, was a key figure in the development of object relations theory, one of the most influential of the contemporary psychodynamic-based therapies. Object relations theory modified classical Freudian theory by shifting the locus of personality development from the unfolding of biological instincts to the quality of one’s early relationships. As an object relations theorist, Winnicott sought to explain how, through early interactions with caregivers, an infant comes to develop and experience a sense of self separate from the world around it. For Winnicott, it was the quality of one’s relationships that determined the measure of one’s health and maturity.

In continuity with his theory, one could seek the sources of Winnicott’s ideas in his own developmental history. Born in ...

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