Psychological Development Across the Lifespan

Margaret Mahler

What is the child’s love affair with the world?

In the early practicing sub-phase, Mahler describes the child’s “love affair with the world.” The child appears to be simply delighted with the newfound power and freedom. Separation anxiety decreases as does sensitivity to minor knocks and falls. Frequently, we can see children of this age running gleefully away from their parents, as if on top of the world. Often they are running toward the street, with a horrified parent close behind. To children of this age, the world is their oyster. Danger does not exist. In fact, the greatest frustration comes from confinement. We have all witnessed this with joyful toddlers running around the supermarket, only to explode in screams when forced into their stroller.

A toddler often experiences sheer joy over mastering the ability to walk (iStock).

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