Monday, May 27, 2013

W21: The Emotionally Disturbed Child – Then and Now

This week’s Biblio-Mat book was one that first appeared to be a chore to read through. That notion was soon confirmed while actually reading it. Judgment by cover rang true.

Cover was drawn by said child.
The Emotionally Disturbed Child – Then and Now, by J. Louise Despert, MD, who also wrote Children of Divorce (or so the cover says), was a 329 page look into the emotional development of children. Written in 1965, it presents a look at how child development was thought of back then. While the studies and scenarios may not be up to date, it is still an interesting read for the historical context and the nuggets of advice hidden within; the biggest of which being that one should definitely not follow advice on child-rearing from a 1960’s book.

What Price Time?
Split into five sections, the book opened with a story about a domineering mother who takes over the lives of not just her own family, but also the household of the man she is housekeeping for. This case study in a domineering mother controlling the dysfunctional lives of her family could not have come at a better time as this week was also the premiere of the long awaited fourth season of Arrested Development on Netflix. Next to the Bluths, this family wasn’t all that bad but the lesson learned was not to be an overbearing mother/wife or your child will grow up with issues.

Not that far off.
The second part was actually entertaining as it told the history of children and child abuse in society across various time periods. In Ancient Greece, Spartans inspect their newborns and threw out the ones that looked weak. This messed them up. In the Medieval ages, children were forced to marry young. That messed them up too. During the Renaissance, children were sacrificed by witches as offerings. That also messed them up. In 18th century France, children were sold into lives of servitude. There was much messing up around that period as well. The soundtrack to this section would be ‘A Hardknock Life’ looped indefinitely. 


Part three dealt with what an emotionally healthy child would be like. Simply put, it is one who is comfortable with themselves, their family, and their surroundings. This section broke down the various stages of a child’s early life along with tips to rear them properly so that they presumably do not rob your neighbours in ten years. The forty odd pages in this part could be summed up simply as pay attention to the child.

Part four described what makes up an emotionally disturbed child. It is pretty much anxiety. Don’t let the child become overtly anxious about anything, but also don’t let his life be completely free of anxiety. The hundred pages in this section looking into how emotionally disturbed child is created could be summed by a quote from Garland Greene: “Mother held him too much or not enough”.

Also, avoid leaving your child with people like Garland Greene.
The last section was titled ‘Reflections on the Family’. Introspection on the modern family and the roles the members play. Specifically concentrating on the mother, it details the dangers of becoming a modern career woman. While it is universally acknowledged that infants should be with their mothers, the picture painted by the book indicates that if a woman were to have a career they would not be able to emotionally support their child and will miss out on all the big moments of their lives so they should learn to embrace the joys and creativity afforded by being a homemaker. Apparently baking one’s own bread is rewarding beyond belief.

Taken with a grain of salt, The Emotionally Disturbed Child – Then and Now is not a completely useless book. It does provide some useful tips on child rearing that has transcended the time period in which it was first printed. While not wholeheartedly recommended, the advice contained may indeed help some with raising and keeping their children in line. If that fails, 329 pages has enough heft for a spanking that’ll learn them right.

Book rating: 5/10 (Not even Annie could save this)

Random quote: “At the age of five she was placed in a private school kindergarten. But after a week, she was rejected, because her intelligence was evaluated as that of a moron.” (1960’s doctor assessments were harsh!)

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