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A Review of the Development of Object Relations Theories
Psychoanal 1998;9:93-106
Published online June 30, 1998
© 1998 Korean Association of Psychoanalysis.

Bum-Hee Yu, M.D.

Department of Psychiatry, Samsung Medical Center, Sung Kyun Kwan University College
of Medicine, Seoul, Korea
Object relations is a term used to describe the internal world of the person including
representations of the self and the object. Historically, the concept of object relations
can be traced to Sigmund Freud, but Melanie Klein, Ronald Fairbairn, and Donald
Winnicott of British school are generally regarded as important contributors to the
initial sprouting of object relations theories. The most important issue in separating
objects relations theories is the extent to which a theory is perceived as harmonious
with or in opposition to Freud’s traditional drive theory. Klein, Mahler and Jacobson
combined Freud’s drive theory with object relations theories, while Fairbairn and
Sullivan replaced the drive theory with object relations as the major motivational
system. Winnicott maintained relatively intermediate posture between these two
opposing theories and is now seen as a bridge from ego psychology to object relations.
Otto Kernberg has made a pioneering contribution to the studies of borderline and
narcissistic pathology and is regarded as the person who allowed British object
relations theories to be accepted by American classical psychoanalysis. Object relations
theories are an important new addition to existing psychoanalytic theories and an
another useful model to understand human psyche.

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