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Wilson, P. (2013). Childism: Confronting Prejudice Against Children by Elisabeth Young-Bruehl. Published by Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, and London, 2012; 288 pp; £20.00 hardback. Brit. J. Psychother., 29(2):264-267.

(2013). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 29(2):264-267

Childism: Confronting Prejudice Against Children by Elisabeth Young-Bruehl. Published by Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, and London, 2012; 288 pp; £20.00 hardback

Review by:
Peter Wilson

This is a political book written by a woman who was both a philosopher and a psychoanalyst. Its primary interest is not in party politics but with the conscious and unconscious complexities of relationships between individuals and groups in society and with the processes of change and resistance amongst those who shape social policy in relation to children.

Elisabeth Young-Bruehl died close to the time of the publication of this book. She was a remarkably gifted and knowledgeable woman whose achievements, among many, were two highly acclaimed biographies. One was of the political theorist, Hannah Arendt; the other, of Anna Freud. Both women inspired her to understand more of the rights and perilous plight of the vulnerable. Of particular interest to her was the nature of prejudice and in 1996 she wrote a substantial treatise, The Anatomy of Prejudices, which clearly informs the first chapter of this book, examining as it does how the force of projection plays such a central part in the psychology of prejudice (Young-Bruehl, 1996). So much that is unwanted within ourselves is pushed out and upon those conveniently perceived as the ‘other’, ‘inferior’, the ready receptacles for all that is to be disowned. These others become the scapegoats or the phobic objects.

‘Childism’ is the term Young-Bruehl uses for prejudice against children. She is particularly alarmed by the way children are treated in American society and she has many instances in the book which illustrate at an individual level the unremitting cruelty meted out by some parents with certain children.

[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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