Morgenstern-Kabatschnik, Sophie (1875-1940)

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Sophie Morgenstern-Kabatschnik, a Polish psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, was born on April 1, 1875. She committed suicide in Paris on June 16, 1940.

Coming from a Polish Jewish family, she began to study medicine in Zurich in 1906. In 1915 she was working as an assistant physician in the Burghölzli asylum under Eugen Bleuler. She moved to France sometime in 1924. It was around this time that she began her analysis with Eugénie Sokolnicka, who is considered to have introduced psychoanalysis to France. Beginning in 1925, Morgenstern became a volunteer worker in the auxiliary clinic for infantile neuropsychiatry directed by Georges Heuyer, who always spoke highly of her even after he dissociated himself from the psychoanalytic movement. The date of her marriage to Abraham Morgenstern is unknown, as is the date of his death. Her only daughter, Laure, unanimously recognized as being extremely intelligent and having a brilliant future, died during an operation, probably in 1937.

Morgenstern killed herself when German troops entered Paris in 1940. All who knew her at the time stressed the unfathomable suffering caused by her daughter's death; few made any mention of her status as a Jewishémigré.

Between 1927 and 1939 Morgenstern published fifteen articles and one book. Her work was entirely based on an in-depth reading of Sigmund Freud. In the conflict between Anna Freud and Melanie Klein, she firmly allied herself with Anna Freud's position. She believed that child neurosis shared the same structure and the same origins as adult neurosis, but the greater malleability of the infantile superego facilitated the resolution of conflicts. She stressed the importance of caution in the formulation of interpretations and considered, unlike Melanie Klein, that they should not anticipate the sexual curiosity of the young patient.

With the 1927 publication of "Un cas de mutisme psychogène" (A case of psychogenic mutism), she described her technique for treating childrendrawingwhich was to remain the primary focus of her research throughout her practice. She also used games, modeling, and, of course, dreams and free association with older children.

Morgenstern was without doubt one of the pioneering figures in child psychoanalysis in France, particularly with regard to the use of drawing in treatment. Her contributions to the Revue française de psychanalyse and L'Évolution psychiatrique reflects the fact that her peers recognized the importance of her work. Françoise Dolto was her most illustrious student. All who take an interest in her work must ask why she has slipped into unjustified oblivion. Her book, Psychanalyse infantile Symbolisme et valeur clinique des créations imaginatives chez l'enfant (Child psychoanalysis, symbolism, and the clinical value of children's imaginative creations; 1937), like her articles "A Case of Psychogenic Mutism" (1927) and "Quelques aperçus sur l'exspression du sentiment de culpabilité dans les rêves des enfants" (Some insights into the expression of guilt in children's dreams; 1933) deserve to be reread in the light of recent research inspired by her original work in child psychoanalysis.

FrÉdÉrique Jacquemain

See also: France; Heuyer, Georges; Child analysis


Morgenstern, Sophie. (1927). Un cas de mutisme psychogène, Revue française de psychanalyse. 1 (3), 492-504.

. (1930). La psychanalyse infantile et son rôle dans l'hygiène mentale. Revue française de psychanalyse, 4 (1), 136-162.

. (1933). Quelques aperçus sur l'expression du sentiment de culpabilité dans les rêves des enfants. Revue française c de psychanalyse, 6 (2), 155-174.

. (1937). Psychanalyse infantile (symbolisme et valeur clinique des créations imaginatives chez l'enfant). Paris: Denoël.

. (1939). Le symbolisme et la valeur psychanalytique des dessins infantiles, Revue française de psychanalyse, 11 (1), 39-48.