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Bowlby, J. (1940). The Influence of Early Environment in the Development of Neurosis and Neurotic Character. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 21:154-178.

(1940). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 21:154-178

The Influence of Early Environment in the Development of Neurosis and Neurotic Character

John Bowlby

The material upon which this paper is based is the case-material which I have seen during the past three years at the London Child Guidance Clinic. I have seen there about 150 cases and, although none of the cases has been fully analysed, an immense amount of work has been done, much of it by analytically trained workers, on them. Data regarding the child's past and present environment has been collected by psychiatric social workers and in the huge majority of cases I have personally interviewed the mother and had some opportunity of gauging her character. The material therefore, although far less intensive than that obtained in analysis, is not altogether superficial and contains reliable evidence on issues which are not easily investigated in analysis. In my view there is a vast field of research open to analysts in psychiatric clinics. In those where it is possible to spend a number of hours on each case and the services of a trained psychiatric social worker are available, it is easy to collect detailed clinical material on, analytically speaking, large numbers of cases. It is my belief that this type of research is of much more value in solving certain analytic problems than is research limited to analytic sessions, and the subject of this paper is a conspicuous example of the type of problem which I have in mind. The very meagre attention given to the rôle of environment in analytic literature seems to me to be due to analysts having in their daily analytic work only very poor opportunities of investigating the problem. Except in the case of child analysts, in fact, first hand observations are impossible. I look forward to the day when analytic research will be pursued vigorously along both the intensive lines of the analytic interview and also the more extensive lines possible in a child guidance clinic or mental hospital.


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