Margaret Mahler’s innovative theory of child development impacted psychoanalytically informed child rearing as her Separation-Individuation theory began to be applied to the rearing of children in families and daycare programs. This theoretical approach was a center piece of the Philadelphia Psychoanalytic Institute (PPI) Child Psychoanalytic Training Program. With the help of Dr. Calvin Settlage and Selma Kramer, the work of Dr. Mahler, as well as her teaching presence, became a major focus of the Child Analytic Training Program in Philadelphia
Dr. Bernard Pacella was an ardent admirer of Dr. Mahler’s work. He had been her first “boss” in the USA, as she used to say with pleasure. The conflicts between adherents of at least two different psychoanalytic theories of early child development resonated in New York City where Dr. Mahler lived, practiced, and carried out some of her experiments that were written up in her books. Proponents of Anna Freud’s theories of development, many of them leading New York child analysts, did not accept the validity of her observational work which provided the basis for her theories. Philadelphia’s analytic community was more receptive and it was there that annual symposiums ere created to discuss and further her work.