Review of Childhood and Society

The following review was published in the New York Times on November 19, 1950. The following review was written by Marian Rayburn Brown. At the time of publication, Brown was a counselor with Cornell University.

Childhood and Society

In studying the causes of maladjustment, psychoanalysis has directed attention toward infantile and childhood experiences. Until recently, little thought was devoted to the culture in which the patient lived. Today, in their interpretation of individual problems and cases, some psychiatrists and analysts are beginning to consider the social pressures to which children of various cultures are exposed. Erik Erikson is a leader in this movement.

Photograph of Psychologist Erik Erikson

Photograph of Psychologist Erik Erikson

A Professor of Psychology at the University of California and a teacher of psychiatry and psychoanalysis, Mr. Erikson emphasizes the importance of early frustrations and leniencies on the development of adult attitudes, anxieties and actions. He believes that while sexual conflict was at the basis of most neuroticism in Freud’s day, the main reason for emotional disturbances in America today lies in the lack of “an emotional integration.” He traces this back to immaturity caused by a prolonged period of childhood and to certain unique characteristics of the American culture and family training.

Mr. Erikson’s chief concern is with the roots of the developing personality which, he maintains, are embedded deeply in the social mores. To illustrate this, he describes the relationship between the methods of childhood training and the adult personality that he found in two primitive Indian tribes; he also uses case histories. He believes that the early training and historical background of the German people made them susceptible to the Fuehrer’s leadership and that the personality and action of the typical Communist can be traced to the historical past.

Dr. Erikson points out areas for research but does not feel that we now have sufficient knowledge to blueprint a new type of child training. The favorable reception of his thesis hinges to a large extent on the readers’ acceptance of psychoanalytic theory. Most of us, at any rate, will agree that the author has presented an interesting and timely point of view, one that reflects a healthy trend in psychiatry, psychoanalysis and child development.

Erik Erikson and Eric Berne

Dr. Eric Berne studied with Erik Erikson.  Erikson’s influence played a role in the development of Berne’s Transactional Analysis as well as the book Games People Play.