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Introduction from Child Guidance in Britain, 1918–1955

Introduction from Child Guidance in Britain, 1918–1955

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Introduction from Child Guidance in Britain, 1918–1955: The Dangerous Age of Childhood. Book number 12 in our series Studies for the Society for the Social History of Medicine, published by Pickering & Chatto
Introduction from Child Guidance in Britain, 1918–1955: The Dangerous Age of Childhood. Book number 12 in our series Studies for the Society for the Social History of Medicine, published by Pickering & Chatto

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Published by: Pickering and Chatto on Jun 20, 2013
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INTRODUCTION: ‘AN ENIGMA TOTHEIR PARENTS’
In 1929 two psychiatrists associated with the Jewish Child Guidance Clinic inthe East End o London, Noel Burke and Emanuel Miller, published an arti-cle in the proessional outlet
 British Journal of Medical Psychology
. Teir topic was ‘child mental hygiene’, an issue which, they claimed, had only recently beensubject to a ‘more scientic attitude … coupled to philanthropy’.
1
Te ollow-ing year Miller was again in print, this time in the recently ounded popular journal
 Mother and Child 
. Tis article was entitled ‘Te Di cult Child’ and inhis opening remarks Miller commented that ‘with the growth o civilization tothe complex orm that it has assumed today’ children could no longer pass easily rom childhood to adolescence to maturity as had previously been the case in‘primitive societies’. Indeed it had to be recognized that the pressures o contem- porary lie had ‘brought about strains and tensions and disruptive tendencies which probably did not exist beore’.
2
Around a year later, in autumn 1931, the Notre Dame Child Guidance Clinicopened in Glasgow, an event described by the local Catholic newspaper. Centralto the composition o the clinic, it was suggested, was a team consisting o a psy-chiatrist, a psychologist and a psychiatric social worker (PSW). Te clinic’s aim was not to deal with children who had ‘denite organic disease, mental deect, orepilepsy’. Rather, its object was the ‘study and treatment o children who, thoughgiven average home and school conditions, remain an enigma to their parents.
3
Some six years later Douglas MacCalman, a psychiatrist who had worked atNotre Dame beore becoming General Secretary o the Child Guidance Council(CGC) in London, addressed the Royal Institute o Public Health and Hygieneon the subject o ‘Te Management o the Di cult Child’. Part o his argument was that while all the causes o a child’s emotional and psychological di culties were as yet unknown, what had been ascertained was that ‘parent–child relation-ships play a huge part in the production o nervous and behaviour disorders’. Was it a ‘visionary dream, he asked, that ‘a vast system o parent education couldbe organized?’
4
In 1955, meanwhile, an ocial committee investigating ‘mal-adjusted children’ noted that while ‘maladjustment’ was a term used in Britain
 
2
Child Guidance in Britain, 1918–1955
since the 1920s it had only been widely adopted since the Second World War.Although the ‘worst efects’ o maladjustment were seen among adults, nonethe-less it had come ‘to be regarded as a problem o childhood’.
5
Tis book addresses the issues raised by these extracts. It does so by analysing and describing the origins and development o child guidance and what it soughtto achieve. In so doing it engages with concepts such as ‘maladjustment’ and‘normalcy’ in children, why the ormer was seen as a threat to the child, its amily and the wider society and the ways in which ‘normalcy’ could be regained. Childguidance was, though, highly contested. Tere were, or instance, disagreementsbetween psychiatrists and psychologists over the causes o maladjustment and,thereby, over how to deal with emotional and psychological problems in child-hood. More broadly, this book places child guidance in its wider context, asking  why, or example, it saw itsel as ‘scientic’ and what precisely were the problemsderiving rom ‘modernity’ or, as Miller put it in ‘Te Dicult Child’, ‘civilizationin the complex orm that it has assumed today’.In this historical analysis we will encounter individuals such as John Bowlby, William Moodie and Douglas MacCalman, all prominent psychiatrists heavily involved in the medical side o child guidance; the pre-eminent psychologisto the rst part o the century, Cyril Burt, and proessional supporters such as James Drever and William Boyd; the psychiatric social workers Sybil ClementBrown and Robina Addis, both pioneers o this new proession; social reorm-ers Anne St Loe Strachey and Evelyn Fox; and Mildred Scoville, a key o cial o the American philanthropic body the Commonwealth Fund o New York. Te period covered is rom the end o the First World War to the mid-1950s. Childguidance was established in Britain in the late 1920s, grew in scope and ambitionin the 1930s and was statutorily recognized as the Second World War came to anend, thus embedding it as part o the emerging welare state. Te chronologicalend point is the mid-1950s, the period o the o cial report on the maladjustedchild and the reaction to it. At rst glance this trajectory appears a triumph or a particular version o child guidance – what we shall come to call the American,or medical, model – in which psychiatric medicine predominated.However, in reality the situation was more complicated. As noted, through-out child guidance’s history there were tensions between psychiatrists and psychologists. Te way in which child guidance was situated in the welare stateappeared to avour the latter at the expense o the ormer, thereby undermin-ing the strictly ‘medical’ approach which its early proponents sought. Tere were, moreover, problems involved in ascertaining what constituted normalcy in emotional and psychological health and in assessing the e cacy o diagnosisand treatment. Equally, other orms o child psychiatry were sceptical about thechild guidance approach. Little wonder, then, that critical outsiders such as theepidemiologist Jerry Morris argued, in the late 1950s, that child guidance was
 
 
 Introduction
3
‘little more than an act o aith’.
6
Tis was a serious charge given Morris’s rising  proessional status and his role in promoting social medicine. Te latter was abranch o the discipline to which, as we shall see in chapter 7, some child guid-ance supporters aspired. With the benet o historical hindsight Morris’s mightbe seen to be a harsh but not unreasonable judgement and will be returned to inthe concluding chapter.Nonetheless, British child guidance in the period under analysis was animportant expansion o the range and nature o child mental health and welareservices as well as having broader implications with respect to, or example, how child–parent relationships were viewed and amily policy and social work prac-tice constructed and delivered. Te historiography o child guidance is discussedmore ully later in this chapter but it is worth noting here the observations o onehistorian and two social scientists. Harry Hendrick remarks that by the interwar period the emphasis in child welare and medicine had changed rom a primary concern with ‘bodies’ to a greater concern with ‘minds’ and that child guidance was a central component o this reocusing. As Hendrick urther notes, childguidance also inuenced other aspects o welare policy, not least the crucial1948 Children Act. It had, he suggests, stressed the ‘importance o childhood asa ormative period and the necessity or it to have a stable environment’ and thisin turn ed into the new kind o relationship between the state and the amily  which the 1948 Act embodied.
7
Nikolas Rose argues that the child guidance clinic and the knowledge itgenerated ‘provided the basis or a concerted attempt to disseminate the normsor happy amilies and contented children which the new psychology had made possible’. Child guidance thus, as Rose urther and amously remarked, estab-lished a ‘systematization o the eld o childhood pathology’ – childhood haditsel, in other words, come to be seen as inherently problematic.
8
More broadly,the twentieth century saw thereby 
the discovery o all those minor mental troubles o children, which became under-stood in terms o maladjustment or childhood neuroses, which, i le untreated,might develop into rank mental illness – the eld o child guidance clinics and latero child psychiatry.
Revealingly, Rose contrasts the ‘mild neuroses o child guidance – bed wetting,night terrors, separation anxiety, ear o the dark and the like’ with present-day  perceptions o the depth and extent o child and adolescent mental ill-health.
9
 Te view o childhood as a pathological condition has, by this account, deep-ened and widened even urther.David Armstrong, charting the rise o ‘surveillance medicine’, points to thechild as the ‘rst target’ o the twentieth-century shi towards the ‘observationo seemingly healthy populations’ and the ‘problematisation o the normal’. As

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