Aberastury, Arminda, Known as "La Negra," (1910-1972)

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The Argentine psychoanalyst Arminda Aberastury was born on September 24, 1910, in Buenos Aires, and died there on December 24, 1972, by committing suicide. Because of her dark hair she was affectionately known as "La Negra," and it was this name that others used when they referred to her.

In 1937 she married the psychiatrist Enrique Pichon-Rivière, a pioneer of psychoanalysis in Argentina. The couple had three children: Enrique, Joaquin, and Marcelo. In 1953, she became a training analyst with the Associación psicoanalítica argentina (APA). She taught for nearly twenty years at the Teaching Institute, where she was the director, and introduced the teaching of child psychoanalysis as part of the training of the analyst candidate.

She later held the chair of child and adolescent psychology in the School of Philosophy and Literature at the University of Buenos Aires. In Latin America she distributed psychoanalytic information to pediatricians, child care workers, teachers, doctors, and pediatric dentists. She corresponded with Melanie Klein, whom she met in London in 1952. She translated Klein's The Psychoanalysis of Children and became a spokeswoman for Klein's theories.

Aberastury believed that genital libido developed before the anal stage, leading to the existence of a "primary genital stage," chronologically situated between the sixth and eighth month of life, which became a key theoretical concept for psychoanalysis. The growth of genital instincts, weaning, teething, the development of the musculature, learning to walk, the acquisition of language, the disruption of the mother-child symbiosis were all said to constitute a complementary series that structured this phase of development, and which would explain specific symptoms and dysfunctions. The genital origin of erogenous manifestations was found in the activity of play. The theory, which included genital identity and the father in the mother-child relation from the first moments of life, helped refine Kleinian theory. Aberastury's ideas on paternity were published posthumously.

The chair of pediatric dentistry in Buenos Aires provided Aberastury with an excellent opportunity for developing and applying her theories. It was here at the Hospital Británico that she began to make use of psychodrama and group psychotherapy in her work with children. Aberastury extended the treatment to their guardians, basing her methods on her observations of the application of psychoanalysis to groups of fathers and mothers.

Between 1946 and 1974 the APA review published twenty-four articles by Aberastury on a wide range of subjects: infant psychoanalysis; treatment indications; applied psychoanalysis; the creation of a diagnostic test, "El constructor infantil," based on a construction game familiar to children in Argentina; clinical cases; transference; music; technique; philosophy; language; unconscious fantasies; supervision; etc. A year after her death by suicide, a chronological list of her 145 published works appeared in the APA review (no. 3/4, 1973). Aberastury also published articles in the reviews of associations in Uruguay, Brazil, and France, as well as in The International Journal of Psycho-Analysis and, in Argentina, in reviews of child and adolescent psychiatry and psychology.

Eduardo J. Salas

See also: Argentina; Brazil; Pichon-Rivière, Enrique.


Aberastury, Arminda. (1959). Una experiencia psicodramatica con niños. In E. J. Salas, G. Smolensky, L. Grinberg, M. Langer, and E. Rodrigue (eds.), El grupo psicologico. Buenos Aires: Nova, APA, 1959.

. (1978). La paternidad, Buenos Aires: Kargieman, 2nd ed., 1985; A. Aberastury, E. J. Salas, A paternidade: Um enfoque psicanalítico.

Aberastury, Arminda, Aberastury, Marcelo, and Cesio, Fidias. (1967). Historia enseñanza y ejercicio legal del psicoanálisis. Buenos Aires: Bibliografica Omeba.