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Furman, R.A. (1967). Children and the Death of a President. Multidisciplinary Studies: Edited by Martha Wolfenstein and Gilbert Kliman. New York: Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1965. 256 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 36:449-451.
(1967). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 36:449-451
Children and the Death of a President. Multidisciplinary Studies: Edited by Martha Wolfenstein and Gilbert Kliman. New York: Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1965. 256 pp.
Review by: Robert A. Furman
Besides an introduction and conclusion written by the editors, this volume contains nine papers, all relating to the responses of children to the assassination of President Kennedy.
It is not possible, nor perhaps appropriate, to review each of the contributions in any depth in a psychoanalytic publication. Three are based primarily on the responses to various questionnaires given to different groups of young people: fifty-seven children, aged thirteen to fifteen, who had previously been followed for over ten years at the Menninger Foundation, are reported by Lois Murphy; the responses of over thirteen hundred primary and secondary school children are considered by Roberta Sigel; and one hundred thirty-two college students are reported by Carolyn Pratt. A psychoanalyst will not feel comfortable with these reports. For instance, Sigel, in discussing the children's responses to a question about crying, says: 'Boys of all ages denied it almost categorically. If we were to believe the children, eighty-one per cent of all the crying was done by girls. We refuse to believe our children and base this refusal on teachers' and parents' reports to the contrary.' How, then, is it possible to accept the validity of any other report the children made about their emotions?
A paper by Fred Greenstein is based on a tape-recorded interview with each of four groups of college students. Three of these groups volunteered to participate, certainly in part, as the author points out, because of their need to talk about the event. Here, too, the analyst will find little of interest.
Two papers are based primarily on material from child psychiatric patients: Children's Reactions to Two Kinds of Loss, Death of a Parent and Death of a President, by Wolfenstein, and a paper on crisis by Zilbach. Both authors have points of departure based on their prior work.
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