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(1987). Editorial. Brit. J. Psychother., 3(4):287.

(1987). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 3(4):287


In his massive account of the history of childhood, Lloyd de Mause (1982) describes an optimistic progress of mankind, onwards and upwards to ever greater humanity. The treatment children receive at the hands of grown-ups has steadily improved, and he drew a graph, a steady upward curve of human kindness. This is psychohistory from a base in Manhattan.

But the roasting of babies alive in Nazi extermination camps, the village massacres by GI's in Vietnam, and the current huge scale of child abuse cases reported in the media do not exactly confirm de Mause's optimism. Perhaps the last half century is only a small and temporary dip in the generally upward trend. Or, perhaps, as the sociobiologists might argue, the current waves of violence are an expression of a gene, frustrated by the lack of fullscale war between Western nations in recent decades.

A child in pain is a particularly anguishing picture. Perhaps we are witnessing merely an upsurge in the media's technical craft which can find, present and communicate stories that touch our heart-strings more strongly.

In line with this trend in interest in the suffering of children, we have been receiving more manuscripts on the topic - aroused no doubt in the present climate of opinion by Masson's delving in the Freud archives. In this issue of the Journal we print four papers, and there will be further ones in subsequent issues.

Rightly criticised though Masson's book is, there is an interesting question about the much larger number of child abuse cases in current years; and the greater frequency with which adult patients report sexual abuse in their own childhoods.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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