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Blanchard, P. (1946). Psychoanalytic Contributions to the Problems of Reading Disabilities. Psychoanal. St. Child, 2:163-187.

(1946). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 2:163-187

Psychoanalytic Contributions to the Problems of Reading Disabilities

Phyllis Blanchard, Ph.D.


The child with a reading disability typically is of average or superior intelligence, able to achieve an I. Q. of 90 to 150 (or more) on oral intelligence tests such as the Stanford-Binet, although rating considerably lower on group tests of intelligence which require reading the questions or instructions. Such a child's failures in school are due not to lack of intelligence but to inability to read well; for example, competency in arithmetic computation is rarely affected, since learning to add, subtract, multiply, divide, etc., is not dependent upon ability to read to the same extent that learning many other subjects is dependent on it. Difficulties in writing and spelling words often are associated with reading disabilities, but disabilities for reading and spelling may appear independently of one another.

Reading disabilities are far more common among boys than girls: statistical studies indicate that eighty per cent or more of children with disabilities in reading are boys. We do not yet have an adequate explanation for this.


1 Monroe has suggested that possibly reading defects, like certain biological variations, may occur more frequently in boys because constitutional factors that impede learning to read are largely characteristic of the male sex (26p. 98). In the light of psychoanalytic contributions, Blanchard has advanced another hypothesis. She notes that Nunberg stated in regard to the early psychosexual development of girls, that their active, aggressive strivings tend to be held in check by passive, feminine tendencies, seldom reaching the same strength as in boys (29). This may mean that boys more frequently than girls encounter difficulties in the normal repressive and sublimative processes in connection with the aggressive drives for which reading, according to psychoanalytic theories, is one means of sublimation (3). For the statistics on sex and reading disabilities, see (2), (26), and other psychological studies of reading disabilities.

11 From the Philadelphia Child Guidance Clinic.

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