“Object relations theory in psychoanalytic psychology is the process of developing a psyche in relation to others in the childhood environment.
While object relations theory is based on psychodynamic theory, it modified it so that the role of biological drives in the formation of adult personality received less emphasis. The theory suggests that the way people relate to others and situations in their adult lives is shaped by family experiences during infancy. For example, an adult who experienced neglect or abuse in infancy would expect similar behavior from others who remind them of the neglectful or abusive parent from their past. These images of people and events turn into objects in the unconscious that the “self” carries into adulthood, and they are used by the unconscious to predict people’s behavior in their social relationships and interactions.
The first “object” in someone is usually an internalized image of one’s mother. Internal objects are formed by the patterns in one’s experience of being taken care of as a baby, which may or may not be accurate representations of the actual, external caretakers. Objects are usually internalized images of one’s mother, father, or primary caregiver, although they could also consist of parts of a person such as an infant relating to the breast or things in one’s inner world (one’s internalized image of others). Later experiences can reshape these early patterns, but objects often continue to exert a strong influence throughout life. Objects are initially comprehended in the infant mind by their functions and are termed part objects. The breast that feeds the hungry infant is the “good breast”, while a hungry infant that finds no breast is in relation to the “bad breast”. With a “good enough” facilitating environment, part object functions eventually transform into a comprehension of whole objects. This corresponds with the ability to tolerate ambiguity, to see that both the “good” and the “bad” breast are a part of the same mother figure.
The initial line of thought emerged in 1917 with Ferenczi and, early in the 1930s, Sullivan, coiner of the term “interpersonal”. British psychologists Melanie Klein, Donald Winnicott, Harry Guntrip, Scott Stuart, and others extended object relations theory during the 1940s and 1950s. Ronald Fairbairn in 1952 independently formulated his theory of object relations.”
From: Penelope Fitzgerald – a Life (2013) by Hermione Lee:
“The College Record for autumn 1935 noted that Miss Dorothy Sayers had succeeded Mrs E.V. Knox as Chairman of the Association of Senior Members, and that Mrs Knox’s daughter was “carrying on the tradition of scholarship and of close association with Somerville”…
…It was not an easy start, to have everyone point her out as the brilliant daughter of Christina Knox who had just died…
…She was one of the Isis magazine’s “Women of the Year” in May 1937…That year, a story circulated around Oxford that she had gone to a party with one breast bared, and had stayed that way, nonchalantly, throughout the evening…”