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Rycroft, C. (1959). Peter and Caroline: A Child Asks about Child-birth and Sex. By Sten Hegeler. Drawings by Gerda Nystad. Foreword by Professor W. C. W. Nixon. (London: Tavistock Publications, 1957. Pp. 29. 7 s. 6 d.). Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 40:354-355.

(1959). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 40:354-355

Peter and Caroline: A Child Asks about Child-birth and Sex. By Sten Hegeler. Drawings by Gerda Nystad. Foreword by Professor W. C. W. Nixon. (London: Tavistock Publications, 1957. Pp. 29. 7 s. 6 d.)

Review by:
Charles Rycroft

In the early decades of this century many psycho-analysts would have endorsed the high hopes entertained in 'advanced' circles of the prophylactic effect of the sexual enlightenment of children. If children, it was believed, had their questions answered straightforwardly and honestly and were spared the prudery and hypocrisy that had been the lot of previous generations, they would grow up free from the guilt and inhibition about sexual matters which was the most striking manifestation of neurosis. However, as psycho-analysis developed, it became apparent that it was all much more difficult, that guilt was, in part at least, the result of pregenital aggressive fantasies which charged the libidinal fantasies of the oedipal phase with guilt-engendering sadism, and that the sexual misconceptions of childhood, which seemed to play such a large part in the development of neurosis and perversion, were not attributable to ignorance or inaccurate information, but were particular manifestations of the specific system of fantasies and defences evoked in the child by the totality of his psychic experience. Furthermore, the suspicion arose that fantasy itself had its value and that harm could be done to a child's imaginative development by premature confrontation with the facts of adult sexuality. As a result, analysts became sceptical as to the value of sexual enlightenment per se and tended to see the problem of infantile sexual curiosity as only one aspect of the larger problem of providing children with a milieu in which they can grow up with sufficient security and integrity to welcome the advent of sexual maturity in adolescence. In On the Bringing Up of Children, edited by the late John Rickman, Nina Searl's answer to the question 'Should the child's questions about sex be answered?' is in the main advice to parents on how to discriminate between questions arising from interest and those arising from anxiety, and on how to avoid in their total attitude to their children the Scylla and Charybdis of over-stimulation and sensual deprivation.

However, children continue to ask questions, and, sincerity being better than insincerity and truth better than lies, the answers given have to be accurate, simple and natural. In Peter and Caroline, Sten Hegeler and Gerda Nystad have offered assistance to parents by writing and illustrating

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