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Esman, A.H. (1981). Before the Best Interests of the Child: By Joseph Goldstein, Anna Freud, and Albert J. Solnit. New York: The Free Press, 1979. 288 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 50:275-277.

(1981). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 50:275-277

Before the Best Interests of the Child: By Joseph Goldstein, Anna Freud, and Albert J. Solnit. New York: The Free Press, 1979. 288 pp.

Review by:
Aaron H. Esman

In 1973, Solnit, Freud, and Goldstein launched upon the intersecting worlds of medicine, law, and social welfare a literary bombshell whose reverberations are still audible. Their earlier book, Beyond the Best Interests of the Child,1 was a penetrating, relentlessly lucid examination of the ways in which society managed—and mismanaged—the lives of children. It proposed a formula—"the least damaging alternative"—to guide the legal agencies of our society in their pursuit of what had been, until then, the rather vague doctrine of "the best interests of the child." Their reasoning was based, throughout, on the application of psychoanalytic developmental psychology to the complex issues that beset child custody, foster care, adoption, and residential placement, in all of which, it was assumed, the state had both the right and the necessity to intervene.

Now, the same authors address themselves to the prior question: When, how, and under what circumstances should and may the state intervene in the lives of children? Guided by their own basic principle of the relative inviolability of the parent-child relationship, they argue forcefully and with implacable logic in support of what they call here "the least intrusive intervention."

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