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Wittels, F. (1943). Child Psychology: As the Twig is Bent. By Leslie B. Hohman. (The Macmillan Company, New York, 1940. Pp. xii + 291.). Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 24:89.
(1943). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 24:89
Child Psychology: As the Twig is Bent. By Leslie B. Hohman. (The Macmillan Company, New York, 1940. Pp. xii + 291.)
Review by: Fritz Wittels
The author of this book on the psychology and education of children is an Associate in Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Medical School and he has written briefly and easily from the results of many years of experience with children and their frequently baffled parents. This book is the presentation of a kind, gentle, cultured man and makes good reading, although its answers, firmly based on common sense, are not always the right answers from the point of view of modern psychology and psycho-analysis. They are quick, superficial and pleasing to all who are not too conservative believers in a well-balanced decency. The demons of the unconscious hardly exist for Professor Hohman.
Be happy and sensible with your children and everything will be all right; punish them if you must, but not too severely and never in a temper—Professor Hohman reassures the frowning parent. Do not permit the boys to become girlish, but interfere only if their girlish habits become really established. As for the girls—let them be tomboyish, but, of course, not too much so. Homosexual tendencies? The author once sent a boy in this danger to a military school and you should see the boy now. Self-abuse? 'We can teach control, decency, sensible sublimation—and forswear any training that clutters an undeniable instinct with false ideas. That is all, but that is enough.' We wish we could share this optimism, but, in the light of psycho-analytical discoveries, we cannot. Psycho-analysis is casually mentioned in the book, but its fundamental importance for any understanding of child psychology is not only not emphasized, but rather 'pooh-poohed' by the author.
The book was well received by the world interested in the education of children and rightly so, as we must admit, in spite of our objections. The author's enthusiasm for his subject is apparent, and the tone of the book is such that it soothes the anxieties of worried parents, fearful lest they misguide their children. The book exhales the spirit: 'Watch me, it is easy and you can't go wrong! Do not believe anyone who tells you otherwise.' It is one of those books of which one parent tells another with a sigh of relief: 'I told you so!' A psycho-analyst, however, cannot but feel smothered by this flood of common sense and blinding benevolence, in which any real understanding of the child's conflicts is drowned.
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