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Shapiro, T. (1975). Childhood Neurosis: The Past 75 Years. Psychoanal. Contemp. Sci., 4(1):453-477.

(1975). Psychoanalysis and Contemporary Science, 4(1):453-477

4 Developmental Studies

Childhood Neurosis: The Past 75 Years

Theodore Shapiro, M.D.


Neurosis in childhood, as in adulthood, generally refers to a state marked by anxiety and associated with secondary symptoms such as obsessive thoughts and/or compulsive behavior, hysterical conversion symptoms, phobic avoidances, and sometimes depression. These symptoms not only cause difficulties for the parents, like other childhood disorders, but are felt by the child to be ego alien—unwanted intrusions on his general routine and sense of well-being. Fish and Shapiro (1965) characterize children with obvious neuroses as moderate to high in severity of maladaptation, and further describe them as follows:

[These children show] generally well-patterned organized behavior that is marked to varying degrees by manifestations of anxiety, and expressions of helpless dependency and inadequacy. These children can usually articulate some awareness of their subjective distress or “nervousness” although they may be unaware of its relation to their other difficulties. They are usually acutely aware of social demands although they interpret these according to their own needs and fears.

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