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Loewenstein, R.M. (1962). L'Enfant Et La Vie Familiale Sous L'Ancien Régime (Childhood and Family Life in Prerevolutionary France): By Philippe Ariès. Paris: Librairie Plon, 1960. 503 pp.; 26 illus.. Psychoanal Q., 31:559-560.

(1962). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 31:559-560

L'Enfant Et La Vie Familiale Sous L'Ancien Régime (Childhood and Family Life in Prerevolutionary France): By Philippe Ariès. Paris: Librairie Plon, 1960. 503 pp.; 26 illus.

Review by:
Rudolph M. Loewenstein

This book belongs to a series of studies devoted to the history of civilization, Civilisations d'hier et d'aujourd'hui, published under the author's direction.

Ariès attempts to study the history of the family in France from the Middle Ages to the end of the eighteenth century. His work consists of three parts, dealing with childhood, the scholastic life, and the family. It holds interest for the psychoanalyst mainly from two aspects; one is the changing concept of childhood, of children's position within the family; the other is the position of the family in society at large. The author is not concerned with the history of the family in a legal sense, but with what he calls, perhaps not very felicitously, 'le sentiment de la famille': the implicit or explicit concept of the family, as experienced by its members, or as illustrated by iconographic documents. His main thesis is that the family holds a much more important place in our modern industrialized society than it ever held before, and that its experienced reality does not follow its legal history.

The counterpart of this changing psychological role of the family is the changing 'sentiment de l'enfance', the changing concept or view of childhood as distinct from adulthood. According to the author, this view of childhood is relatively recent and has evolved only gradually in the last few centuries; it is only since the nineteenth century that there exists a 'centralization of the family around the child'. These changes are described as having taken place in France, but to some extent they apply also to the whole Western world.

Psychoanalysts will particularly enjoy the chapter dealing with sexuality in childhood. Ariès, who seems well acquainted with psychoanalytic findings, quotes from the diary of Héroard, physician to the future King Louis XIII of France.

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