The Child Guidance Movement Focused on Emotional Health of Children and Mother Bashing

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The child guidance movement became popular in the 1940s and 1950s though it was around for much longer than that. When it started it was believed that helping children with emotional problems would prevent them from becoming schizophrenic as adults. Thi

One of the biggest movements that influenced family therapists was the child guidance movement.

The whole idea that came forth from the child guidance movement was based on the premise that since classic therapists saw mental illness beginning in childhood, it was important to treat children and make sure they remained happy and healthy will they were still young.  Freud was the first to state that unresolved emotional issues of childhood manifested itself in adult emotional problems.

Freud’s student, Alfred Adler took the concept further and developed child clinics all over Vienna.  Not only were the children supported. They were encouraged to be the best they could be and if they had inferiority complexes these soon were changed for a healthy ego. Not only were the kids helped, teachers and families and were also counseled on how to make a happy healthy environment for children.  Today we have the Adlerian Institute in California. 

Alfred Adler / Wikimedia public domain

The forerunner to the child guidance movement in the USA was actually the Juvenile Psychopathic Institute founded by William Healy in 1909; it was the first institute of its kind in America. The focus was on juvenile delinquents but the child guidance movement emerged in the 1920. By 1924 one of Adler’s students emerged as a forerunner in the movement and so emotional issues became the focus of these programs.  There weren’t many of them before World War II, but now these clinics are available in cities everywhere in the US.

These clinics look at the children’s psychological problems and how it relates to the social context and that includes family, friends, and school. Much of the attention was focused on the family. Psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers are part of the team of professionals in these clinics.

In the early days the team blamed mothers for the problems their children were having.  By the 1940s and 50s the thought of the day was that the mothers had issues about not feeling loved as a child and this made them either into an overbearing mothers or an over indulgent mothers.  In turn the children of overbearing mothers were submissive in the home, but had problems making friends.  Children who had over indulgence mothers became spoiled brats and disobedient at home but well behaved at school.

Mother bashing was rampant in the 1940s. By 1948 Freida Fromm Reichman labeled mothers by one of the most damaging labels in psychiatric history. She called mothers who were somewhat detached schizophrenogenic mothers and according to her, these mothers were the root of schizophrenia in their children.   These women were said to be domineering, aggressive, and insecure.  They were often married to passive, inadequate and indifferent men. These mothers were said to be too critical and no matter what the child did the child was wrong.  They also gave mixed messages that left the child very confused.  This school of thought went on well into the 1970s.

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carol roach
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