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Environmental Mastery and Personality Development

RICHARD H. PHILLIPS, M.D.
Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1961;5(2):146-150. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1961.01710140038006.
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The theoretical formulations included within this paper have, for the past several years, proved useful in teaching psychological evaluation and psychotherapy. Although the basic concepts derive from the examination of the transactions of psychotherapy with adult patients, it is not my purpose to consider practical applications at the present time. Rather, I shall present the material within the structure of personality theory.

The central thesis of my subject is the concept of the child's need to develop a sense of mastery over his environment. While the child's tendency to strive to master is so obvious that it can scarcely be denied, there is a considerable division of opinion regarding how this tendency should be classified. In an attempt to offer a dynamic explanation of the force impelling the development and exercise of ego function, Hendrick introduced the theory of an "instinct to master."2,3 French,

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