Lack of Object Constancy – An inability to remember that people or objects are consistent, trustworthy and reliable, especially when they are out of your immediate field of vision.
Lacking Faith in Reality
Object Constancy is a developmental skill which most children do not develop until two or three years of age. It takes time, and experience of the reliability of the key people in their world, for them to develop a sense that when Mommy leaves the room, she’s still on the same planet, and will reappear again.
When they are still very young, infants often experience Separation Anxiety whenever they are separated from a parent, even for a second. They may begin crying unless they are held or unless they can see their parent close by, terrified that they have “lost” their parent.
When toddlers become mobile and begin to explore their world, they often begin to take short excursions to explore their environment, turning their attention to an interesting object and checking back with mom or dad every few minutes to feel safe again. As the child develops, the time between “check in’s” tends to extend longer. By the time a child is 4 or 5 years old, most children can spend several hours at pre-school or school away from their parents without experiencing significant separation anxiety.
The ability to recognize that although they can’t see their parent, that their parent is still “there” and that they are still safe is sometimes referred to as Object Constancy.
Object Constancy is the ability to understand that some things or people remain constant – even when we can’t see them or verify that they are “still there”. Object constancy can apply to objects or to people and relationships. People who suffer from Personality Disorders sometimes experience a lack or a deficiency in object constancy. This can be at the root of issues such as Fear of Abandonment, as well as Selective Amnesia, False Accusations and Dissociative Memories.
What it Looks Like
- A baby cries as soon as a parent leaves the room.
- A partner calls or texts repeatedly – more than 10 times in a single day.
- A parent assumes that their teenager has run away when they are 15 minutes late getting home from school.
- A housewife has repeated affairs while her husband is at work because she feels abandoned.