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Steiner, D. (1996). John Byng-Hall (ed.), Preschoolers: Questions and Answers: Psychoanalytic Consultations with Parents, Teachers and Caregivers. International Universities Press, Madison, Conn.: 1995, 204 pp., £25.50. J. Child Psychother., 22(3):464-466.

(1996). Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 22(3):464-466

John Byng-Hall (ed.), Preschoolers: Questions and Answers: Psychoanalytic Consultations with Parents, Teachers and Caregivers. International Universities Press, Madison, Conn.: 1995, 204 pp., £25.50

Reviewed by
Deborah Steiner

This collection of papers derives from topics discussed at workshops and seminars organized and conducted by Erna Furman at the Cleveland Center for Research in Child Development and the Hannah Perkins Therapeutic School in Cleveland, Ohio. The book is divided into three parts, and there are fourteen papers in all, of which eight are by Erna Furman herself. Three are by her husband Robert Furman, a paediatrician, child analyst and Director of the Cleveland Center and the Hannah Perkins School, and the rest are by teachers and psychologists associated with the two institutions.

Part 1, comprising seven papers, addresses aspects of personality development and the parents’ and educators’ role in it. There is much good sense in these papers, written simply and straightforwardly and springing lightly, as papers written for a lay audience should, from thoughtful psychoanalytical work. However I found the first two papers, ‘Play and work’ and ‘On liking oneself, disappointing in that, although conflicts about loss and separation, which are so central to the toddler stage, are touched on, it seemed to me that the connection between those emotional issues and the child's bid for freedom and mastery of developmental tasks could have been explored more fully.

Ruth Hall, in her useful paper ‘Working with parents’, uses two case studies to illustrate the problems of resisting the parents’ wish for quick advice or answers from ‘the expert’, an issue which arises all the time in many different settings. It is a pity that the title of the book seems to suggest there are easy answers and does not do justice to the thoughtfulness of the papers. The need to take the time to work closely with the parents of pre-school children in exploring their problems is stressed by Ruth Hall and in the book as a whole.

The central paper of this section, and, in my view, of the whole book, is the paper by Erna Furman ‘Mothers, toddlers and care’. This chapter takes the form of questions which are then discussed.

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