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Fordham, M. (1964). Well-Motivated Parents: The importance of the environment in the therapy of a schizophrenic child. J. Anal. Psychol., 9(2):163-170.

(1964). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 9(2):163-170

Well-Motivated Parents: The importance of the environment in the therapy of a schizophrenic child

Michael Fordham


MANY years ago, during the second world war, there were two children suffering from schizophrenia, living in a hostel for maladjusted children. While they lived there each improved considerably, yet when I last heard of them, several years later, one was in a mental hospital, the other doing well at a grammar school. One had survived the hostel's closing at the end of the war, for the other it had spelt disaster.

These contrasting results suggest the reflection that schizophrenic children can sometimes adapt themselves well enough socially. Indeed, this has been demonstrated in follow-up studies, but neither my cases nor the follow-up studies show whether the sometimes favourable outcome is due to remission of the disorder, to good environmental handling, or to a combination of both.

That relapses in such children can be due to those who are in charge of them is shown by the cases referred for consultation during a crisis that has been brought about by the anxieties of the persons in charge. If these fears are successfully negotiated the child may go on from strength to strength. Not always, however, for parents or teachers may prove unable to make the necessary adjustments. Therefore it becomes relevant to inquire what sort of parents, teachers, and others can help the schizophrenic child to adapt. There is one combination of characteristics that I have noticed which may be significant: the child has a particularly discerning mother and a tolerant father who knows that he is unstable and has arrived at a modus vivendi with himself.

A further reflection is this: it is important to keep in view the normal elements in schizophrenic children. In support of this attitude, I never communicated my diagnosis of either hostel case to the matron who had care of the two children. It was therefore interesting to note that, in the case of the child who ended up in a mental hospital, a psychiatrist had made the correct diagnosis, and this initiated the following sequence of events.

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