Sullivan's theory rests on the assumption that unhealthy personality development results from interpersonal conflicts and difficulties. Prior to preadolescence, children often internalize a parent's negative perceptions of them, which may lead to some form of emotional disturbance. Sullivan (1953a) reasoned that if interpersonal relationships can be the cause of emotional disturbance, then they can also be the cure.
In tins section, we review some of the research on two quite different types of interpersonal relationships—imaginary playmates and patient-therapist interactions.
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