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Davis, E.B. (1971). Wages of Neglect. New Solutions for Children of the Poor: By Robert Coles and Maria Piers. Chicago: Quadrangle Books, Inc., 1969. 191 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 40:685-688.

(1971). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 40:685-688

Wages of Neglect. New Solutions for Children of the Poor: By Robert Coles and Maria Piers. Chicago: Quadrangle Books, Inc., 1969. 191 pp.

Review by:
Elizabeth B. Davis

The authors have done the psychoanalytic community a particular service by providing this review of the major findings derived from several important studies of groups of children at risk. All the children reported on had been exposed to severe but varying degrees of neglect, deprivation, and abuse, but they differed in their social, national, and racial backgrounds.

It has long been agreed that certain types of limitations and deviations observed in middle-class children result from intrapsychic patterns generated by specific parental behavior toward infants and young children in interaction with environmental circumstances encountered during later childhood and adolescence. However, there has been a tendency to attribute to 'socio-economic' factors the statistically commonest limitations and deviations found in children of the poor, especially the poorest of the poor. Insufficient attention has been given to the fact that these socio-economic factors affect children's psychological function through their effects on parents and that it is the parental neglect (or ignorance) and the family disorganization which affect the children so exposed, whether that neglect or family disorganization occurs in conditions of poverty or affluence. The authors state it this way:

The children I saw in New Orleans ultimately had to be understood as children who lived in certain kinds of homes, who had certain kinds of relationships with parents and brothers and sisters and relatives and neighbors, and who, by virtue of these relationships, were strong or weak, capable or vulnerable.

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