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

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. This movement found the family to be the contributing factor in schizophrenia and mother bashing became the thought of the day.

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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Comments (6)

It seems that when there are problems it is easy to always blame someone else. Good article

I agree with Val, Carol, it is always easier to blame someone else than it is to accept our own responsibility for the problem at hand.

thanks Val this is psychoanalytic theory and these clincians have not changed their stance this what they beleived based on their training that this is what is truly happening.  I don't practice psychoanalytic therapy I don't agree with some of their theory

No Jerry you are misunderstanding it is not the people blaming each other this is what the therapists are saying is the problem. They are doing the mother bashing and so the clients pick up on it

I knew a mother like that. She was SCARY! She would hog tie her daughter on the floor and sit on her and beat her. She made her scald the dishes and it was never right. She made her clean the floor with a tooth brush and it was never right either. She dressed her kids perfectly and on the outside the kid never had any visible bruises. I heard the kid ran away at 14 and never came back. 

charlene the therapists were not even talking about people like that, that would either was a crmiinal or was severely mentally ill. They were talking about people like Sharon who falls in the category of over indulgent but she is not a bad person, yes people who never say no and then the opposite side people who are very strict raising their kids but they are not abusive. Micheale Obama falls in that category she is very strict but she is a good parent.  I don't like psychoanalytic theory psychiatry is not the field for me, so I do not believe in mother bashing, I go for other theories that explain human behavior