Dolto-Marette, Françoise (1908-1988)

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Françoise Dolto-Marette, a French psychoanalyst, was born in Paris on November 6, 1908, and she died there on August 28, 1988. Dolto's Enfances (Childhoods; 1986) and Autoportrait d'une psychanalyste (Self-portrait of a woman psychoanalyst; 1989) tell the story of how a little girl born into a middle-class family at the turn of the twentieth century became a doctor and psychoanalyst. The two books recount the traumatic loss of a beloved nanny when she was a few months old; the death at the front on July 10, 1916, of her uncle Pierre, who was her godfather and whom she thought of as her "fiancé"; and the death of her older sister, Jacqueline, when she was eleven. At her first communion, her mother asked her to pray to save her sister, who contracted bone cancer at the age of eighteen. "I would never have become a psychoanalyst," she wrote, "were it not for this grief that upset the whole family. I think I would have become a doctor in any case, because I had wanted to since I was eight, but I would not have become an analyst if my sister had not died and if I had not experienced my mother's pathological mourning, my father's suffering and bewilderment, and the pain of my brother Pierre, the oldest of the boys." René Laforgue, her analyst, noted a "family neurosis" extending across the generations in her family. Part of this family neurosis was a "myth of the savior": Dolto's paternal grandfather died while rescuing five women in a railway fire, and her maternal grandfather, a prisoner in 1870, was "saved by his sister disguised as a peasant girl."

Dolto began her analysis with Laforgue in 1931, and he subsequently encouraged her to get involved in child analysis, at which she was very gifted, according to Sophie Morgenstern. Her supervisors were Heinz Hartmann, Angel Garma, Rudolph Löwenstein, René Spitz, John Leuba, and Morgenstern. She was elected to membership in the Société psychanalytique de Paris (Paris Psychoanalytic Society) on June 20, 1939, about the time of the publication of her thesis in medicine, Psychanalyse et pédiatrie (Psychoanalysis and pediatrics; 1971b).

At the Hôpital Trousseau, Dolto worked for a short time in Jenny Aubry's pediatric ward. Then afterÉdouard Pichon's death, she took over and ran his consultancy from 1940 to 1978. She ran the consultancy in innovative ways and independently of the psychiatry ward, and she opened it to analysts wishing to train in child analysis. Numerous participants can attest to the quality of her input and to what they learned by watching her work with children and their parents. She was the first analyst to modify the therapeutic setting by bringing in "witnesses" who rarely contributed, one of them taking notes and the others playing a role analogous to that of a Greek chorus. Here she began accepting infant patients, which was most unusual at the time. At offices in Paris she engaged in the same sort of practice with children from the Antony nursery and state foster homes.

In tandem with these activities, she started a Tuesday-evening study seminar on children's drawings and, on two Thursdays per month, a seminar in child analysis for psychoanalysts and therapists. She led the seminar for nearly fifteen years. During its last years, the seminar brought together as many as several hundred participants.

At the time of the first split in the French psychoanalytic movement, Doltoalong with Jacques Lacan, Daniel Lagache, and Juliette Favez-Boutonierfounded the Société française de psychanalyse (French Society of Psychoanalysis) in 1953. For the 1960 congress on female sexuality in Amsterdam, she wrote "La libido génitale et son destin féminin" (Genital libido and its vicissitudes in women; 1996b). From 1947 she published numerous articles in the socialist journal La revue de l'union des femmes françaises, and later in Lesétudes carmélitaines, Psyché, and the journal of the École des parents (Parents' school). She worked at the CentreÉtienne-Marcel from its inception and published in Le coq-héron, and in 1971 published Dominique: the analysis of an adolescent, a case history of the treatment of a "retarded" patient.

In 1964 she was a follower of Jacques Lacan during the creation of theÉcole freudienne de Paris. At that time the International Psychoanalytical Association excommunicated the Lacanians, forbidding them to teach and train analysts. On August 2, 1962, Serge Lebovici, addressing the executive committee of the International Psychoanalytical Association in Edinburgh, demanded that they separate "the wheat from the chaff" and accused Dolto of being what she was, neither a Kleinian nor a follower of Anna Freud. In Dolto's case, the reasons for the excommunication still have not been clearly explained. One can only conclude that a great injustice was committed.

Her radio programs, beginning in 1976 and listened to by parents all over France, established her as an analyst in touch with society and actively engaged in the cause of children. The list of her contributions is extensive: her work with the deaf, her active support of the Neuville schools, her long preface to Maud Mannoni's book, Le Premier rendez-vous avec le psychanalyste, her decisive influence in the training of educators and childcare workers, her contributions in support of children's rights. She also actively participated in numerous colloquia and meetings: Naître et ensuite (Birth and Afterwards), within the framework of the Groupe de recherche et d'étude du nouveau-né(Group for the Research and Study of Newborns), and the Bordeaux conference Enfants et souffrance (Children and suffering). These many innovative experiments have given her an original and incontrovertible place in the history of relations between psychoanalysis and society. Her concepts of the "unconscious body image," female libido, and "symbolic castration," debated by the psychoanalytic community, were, for her students, "valuable tools that were indispensable in the clinical treatment of very young children or patients in great distress." They were the fruit of a life devoted to "hearing" the needs of infants when they are still incapable of speech but can expresses themselves in their own ways.

The creation of a welcome facility for little ones accompanied by their parents (founded in January 1978), later the Maison verte de Paris (which opened in January 1979), attests to the efforts of Dolto and her collaborators at the CentreÉtienne-MarcelPierre Benoît, Colette Langignon, and Bernard Thisto promote, together with Marie-Noëlle Rebois, Marie-Hélène Malandrin, Nelba Nasio, Claude This, and all those who came later, the prevention of early childhood emotional disturbances. This innovation by a group of analysts and educators, recognized by the Fondation de France (Foundation of France), led to many other welcome facilities in France and other countries.

A three-volume collection of Dolto's radio programs, Lorsque l'enfant paraît (When the child appears; 1990), first appeared in 1977, 1978, and 1979. Her other publications include The Jesus of psychoanalysis: a Freudian interpretation of the Gospel (1979); in 1981, La difficulté de vivre (The difficulty of living; 1995), Au jeu du désir (The play of desire), and Les évangiles et la foi au risque de la psychanalyse (The Gospel and faith in the light of psychoanalysis; 1996a); in 1982, Séminaire de psychanalyse d'enfants (Seminar on child analysis); in 1984, L'image inconsciente du corps (The unconscious body image); in 1985, La cause des enfants (The cause of children) and Solitude (1987b); in 1987, Tout est langage (Everything is language; 2002), L'enfant du miroir (The child of the mirror), and Dialogues québecois (Quebec dialogues); and in 1992, Inconscient et destin (The unconscious and fate) and Quand les parents se séparent (When parents separate). Many aspects of Dolto's career show that this clinician and internationally renowned psychoanalyst sought to make her ideas accessible to all. After her death on August 25, 1988, many of her contributions were published, and the Association archives et documentation Françoise Dolto was established in Paris in 1990.

Bernard This

Works discussed: Flower Doll: Essays in Child Psychotherapy ; Psychanalyse et Pédiatrie (psychoanalysis and pediatrics).

See also: Armand Trousseau Children's Hospital; Child psychoanalysis; École freudienne de Paris; France; Psychanalyse, La ; Puberty; Société française de pscyhanalyse; Technique with children, psychoanalytic.


Dolto, Françoise. (1971a). Dominique: the analysis of an adolescent. New York: Outerbridge and Lazard.

. (1971b). Psychanalyse et pédiatrie. Paris: Seuil. (Originally published 1939)

. (1981). Au jeu du désir: essais clinique. Paris: Seuil.

. (1982). Séminaire de psychanalyse d'enfants. Paris: Seuil.

. (1984). L'image inconsciente du corps. Paris: Seuil.

. (1985). La cause des enfants. Paris: R. Laffont.

. (1986). Enfances. Paris: Seuil.

. (1987a). Dialogues québecois. Paris: Editions du Seuil.

. (1987b). Solitude. Paris: Vertiges du Nord.

. (1989). Autoportrait d'une psychanalyste. Paris: Seuil.

. (1990). Lorsque l'enfant paraît. Paris: Seuil. (Origin-ally published 1977-1979)

. (1992). Inconscient et destins. Paris: Seuil.

. (1995). La difficulté de vivre. Paris: Gallimard. (Originally published 1981)

. (1996a). Les évangiles et la foi au risque de la psychanalyse. Paris: Gallimard.

. (1996b). La libido génitale et son destin féminin. In her Sexualité féminine. La libido génitale et son destin féminin. Paris: Gallimard. (Originally published 1964)

Dolto, Françoise, and Angelino, Inès. (1988). Quand les parents se séparent. Paris: Seuil.

Dolto, Françoise; Baldy Moulinier, Claude; Guillerault, Gérard; and Kouki, Elisabeth. (2002). Tout est langage. Paris: Gallimard. (Originally published 1987)

Dolto, Françoise, and Nasio, Juan-David. (1987). L'enfant du miroir. Paris: Rivages.

Dolto, Françoise, and Sévérin, Gérard. (1979). The Jesus of psychoanalysis: a Freudian interpretation of the Gospel. (Helen R. Lane, Trans.) Garden City, NY: Doubleday. (Original work published 1977)