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Abram Kardiner

KARDINER, ABRAM (1891–1981), U.S. psychoanalyst. Born and educated in New York City, Kardiner studied with *Freud from 1921 to 1922. In 1949 he was appointed clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University and in 1955 director of the psychoanalytic clinic. He conducted joint seminars at Columbia University on the interplay of individual personality and culture in diverse societies. Various patterns of child rearing, the biography of adult behavior, and institutional structure were subjected to psychodynamic analysis. Inferences about the personality produced in the culture were drawn and checked by actual psychological tests. The findings were documented in Kardiner's The Individual and His Society (1939) and his Psychological Frontiers of Society (1945).

Kardiner, and those following his lead, believed it possible to elicit a "basic personality structure" – a set of trends entering into the characters of all individuals reared in the same culture. This structure was the product of "primary institutions" such as child training methods in dealing with aggression and sex and the family organization. The basic personality expressed itself unconsciously in secondary institutions such as folklore, art, and religion. It was from these cultural institutions, therefore, that the basic personality expected in the culture could be inferred.

Kardiner's theoretical procedure involved analyses of the social frustration of adult neurotics and "normal" individuals within the Western culture. From his conclusions he established how groups in any culture would react to similar social frustration.

Kardiner was one of the founders of the Association for Psychoanalytic Medicine (APM) and of the Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research. In recognition of his role as a renowned pioneer in the application of psychoanalysis to the study of culture, the APM established the Abram Kardiner Lectureship on Psychoanalysis and Culture in 1978.


Kardiner co-authored with Lionel Ovesey Mark of Oppression (1951), which explored the impact of social pressures on the African-American personality. Other works by Kardiner include The Traumatic Neuroses of War (1941), Sex and Morality (1954), They Studied Man (1961), and My Analysis with Freud: Reminiscences (1977). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: W. Manson, The Psychodynamics of Culture: Abram Kardiner and Neo-Freudian Anthropology (1988).

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.