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The Mother Archetype & John Kennell's Advocacy of Bonding

A brief note of an obituary in today's NY Times of John Kennell at the age of 91. Dr. Kennell was a former head neonatologist at University hospital in Cleveland who lead a research project in the 60s that helped change the attitudes toward bonding between mother and infant immediately after birth. I did not know of Dr. Kennell or of his research until I read his obituary. But the article led me to research Dr. Kennel's work and gave reinforcement to the idea that a new born infant should immediately be allowed to be fed by the mother so the crucial important bonding of the new born infant and mother can begin. Here is a piece from the article that describes the benefits of his research:

His findings, published in “Maternal-Infant Bonding,” a 1976 book written with Dr. Marshall H. Klaus, a fellow professor of pediatric medicine at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, were considered a prime catalyst for changes in hospital procedures that gave new mothers more private time with their infants, let fathers into the delivery room and allowed young children to visit new siblings in the hospital.

Although there was controversy about his research, the fact he realized the importance of mother-infant bonding early on demonstrated the need for such bonding. Being a Jungian, and just having yesterday given a workshop on Jung and archetypes, it struck me to just how important his research and eventual changes were, beyond the conscious experience his research focused on. Putting the infant to the mother's breast to be immediately be fed begins the reinforcement and a strengthening of a specific behavior due to its association with a particular stimulus. That stimulus of course is the mother archetype. The mother/infant bonding is not so much the importance to what is pleasurable to the infant and/or mother as it is the reinforcement of nature's directive that this bonding take place. It is fulfilling the role of the mother archetype to the infant. The mother archetype is the built-in ability of the infant to recognize a relationship of "mothering." It is an expectation the infant is born with, a set of instructions embedded with the psyche, an unconscious identity by the infant with the mother.

'The mother is the psychic as well as physical precondition of the child.'

Dr. Kennel's research helped us to understand how important it is to create an atmosphere of early attachment behavior between a new parent and baby. Although it wasn't due to his knowledge or belief in the archetypes, the results were just important, both to the real attachment needs of the conscious mother/child relationship as it was to the unconscious archetypal mother/child relationship.


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