Âle, Pierre (1900-1976)

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ÂLE, PIERRE (1900-1976)

French psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Pierre Mâle was born in Charolles, France, on October 11, 1900, and died in Paris on July 20, 1976.

The son ofÉmile Mâle, an eminent art historian and member of the French Academy, he performed brilliantly in his secondary school studies at the Lycée Henri IV. He studied medicine in Paris and in 1920 worked as an extern in the department of Henri Claude, the first professor to agree to supervise psychoanalysts. The 1920s were the years of Surrealism and the first translations of the works of Sigmund Freud. In 1926 Mâle was an intern in the staffroom at the Hôpital Sainte-Anne alongside Henry Ey and Jacques Lacan; he was among the first to undertake training analysis, initially with Rudolph Löwenstein, then resuming with Marie Bonaparte after World War I.

In 1926 the Société psychanalytique de Paris (SPP; Paris Psychoanalytical Society) was founded; Mâle was elected a member on June 21, 1932. Elected to permanent membership on April 20, 1948, he became the society's president after the schism of 1953, and in 1954 he inaugurated the Institut de psychanalyse de Paris (Paris Institute of Psychoanalysis), the leadership of which was entrusted to Sacha Nacht. In the face of the choices necessitated by the successive crises within French psychoanalysis, without discounting the importance of individuals' problems, his decisions were always based on the therapeutic vocation of psychoanalysis, in line with Freud's approach mandating a certain rigor in practice and training.

Beginning in the 1930s he participated in the emergence of child and juvenile psychiatry, under the influence of Georges Heuyer. In 1948, at the Hôpital Henri-Rouselle (part of Sainte-Anne), he created Guidance Infantile (Children's Guidance Center), where, initially seconded by Jean Favreau, his clinical practice and work became widely known. In this setting he taught a form of total clinical work in which psychoanalysis, the centerpiece, was in the service of a veritable anthropology, based on the comparative weight of conflicts, "equipment," and history, oriented toward a multidisciplinary approach to the child and taking the family into account. Mâle was director of Guidance Infantile from 1948 to 1976.

From 1932, faithful to the contributions of Pierre Janet and Henri Wallon but inspired by Freud's Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905d), Mâle studied children's character and perverse behaviors in a new light, taking into account structures, but also events and instincts. If his preferred focus was adolescence, it was because that period seemed to him like a second birth in which buried material could come to the surface and be within reach of his activity in the operative field of the transference, a productive moment for intervention where it was possible to take up individual finality anew. The various forms of his therapies in particular, short-term and non-ritualized versionsare elaborated in Psychothérapie de l'adolescent (Psychotherapy for adolescents, 1964) and relate to "the crisis of youth" and the "disharmonies of puberty," but also to criminality and "preschizophrenias," which topics he addressed, respectively, in 1951 with Serge Lebovici, and in 1958 with André Green.

At the beginning of the 1960s, Mâle began to focus on two adolescent states: "failure neurosis," expressed in terms of school performance, "pathology of error" and "refusal to succeed" (for which he proposed a combination of psychotherapy and an original curative pedagogy, developed with Thérèse Tremblais-Dupré), and "apathy," a phenomenon of modern society characterized by an absence of investment and intolerance of daily life, and heralding behaviors such as running away from home, delinquency, drug use, and suicide, which are most common among adolescents whose early home life was disturbed. Here, his observation of particular resistance to therapy pointed him, in the 1970s, toward research using a "vertical" approach to disturbed mother-child relations, together with Alice Doumic-Girard. Finally, with his friend René Held, Mâle contributed to the status of psychoanalytically inspired psychotherapy for adults.

Described by Philippe Gutton as leader of the French school of adolescent psychiatry (Adolescence, No. 1, 1983), Mâle continued to the end to expand the extraordinary possibilities of applying psychoanalysis in all areas and for patients of all ages. Pierre Bourdier and Ilse Barande, who succeeded Mâle as directors of the facility that was renamed Guidance infanto-juvenile Pierre Mâle (Pierre Mâle Children's and Youth Guidance Center), worked alongside Simone Daymas to ensure the transmission of Mâle's life work.

Pierre Bourdier

See also: Adolescence; France; Loewenstein, Rudolph M.


Barande, Ilse, and Daymas, Simone. (1994). Pierre Mâle et nous. Perspectives psychiatriques, 41, 17-23.

Mâle, Pierre. (1964). Psychiatrie de l'adolescent. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.

. (1982-1984). Oeuvres complètes. (Vol. 1: La Crise juvénile. Vol.2: De l'enfantà l'adulte ). Paris: Payot.

Mâle, Pierre, Doumic-Girard, Alice, Benhamou, Françoise, and Schott, Marie-Claude. (1975). Psychothérapie du premier-âge. De la théorie à la pratique. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.

Tremblais-Dupré, Thérèse. (1982). Pierre Mâle, prince de la psychiatrie. Scarabée Internationale, 3-4, 204-211.