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Blank, H.R. (1954). Child Training and Personality: A Cross-Cultural Study: By John W. M. Whiting and Irvin L. Child. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1953. 353 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 23:120-121.

(1954). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 23:120-121

Child Training and Personality: A Cross-Cultural Study: By John W. M. Whiting and Irvin L. Child. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1953. 353 pp.

Review by:
H. Robert Blank

The research reported in this book is concerned in general with the relationships between personality and culture, specifically with the testing of certain hypotheses about human behavior derived from psychoanalytic theory 'in any and all societies'. The authors, an anthropologist and a psychologist, have been profoundly influenced by 'Dollard and Miller's efforts at extensive restatement of freudian principles in terms of general behavior theory'.

The sources consist of extracts from ethnographic reports of seventy-five primitive societies. These extracts were painstakingly and systematically analyzed with reference to practices in child training on typical adult behavior. The resulting data were then used to test predictions implicit in psychoanalytic theory (restated in terms of behavior) on the subjects of fixation, origins of guilt, and the unrealistic fear of other persons and spirits. The authors' conclusions support, for the most part, psychoanalytic theory on the effects of child training in determining adult personality. For fixation, they found strong evidence supporting the theory of 'negative fixation', their term for fixation due to 'frustration of a particular form of behavior'. For 'positive fixation', i.e. fixation due to overindulgence, they found only tentative confirmation. For guilt, they found 'support for the interpretation of guilt as a consequence of identification' with the parents. For irrational fear of others, they found strong support for the concept of its association with anxiety about aggression and with the mechanisms of displacement and projection. In general, they find convincing evidence of common basic psychological processes underlying the great variability of human behavior from culture to culture.

The authors' meticulous attention to statistical considerations will make a good deal of the book hard reading for the academically and statistically unsophisticated psychoanalyst. The chief defects of the book are the authors' poor grasp of and ambivalence toward psychoanalysis which obtrude themselves in spite of their consciously favorable attitude and their heroic attempts at scientific objectivity. They oversimplify and distort psychoanalytic theory in their need to restate it 'in terms of general behavior theory'.

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