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Pearson, G.H. (1939). The Chronically Aggressive Child. Psychoanal. Rev., 26(4):485-525.

(1939). Psychoanalytic Review, 26(4):485-525

The Chronically Aggressive Child

Gerald H. J. Pearson, M.D.

Introduction

The child who behaves constantly in an aggressive manner presents a serious problem for the psychiatrist as well as for the parents, the school, and the community. The problem is so serious that I feel it is well to review what we know about the psychopathology and the treatment of the chronic aggressive reaction. It is not my intention to introduce any new concepts but to discuss the whole problem in the light of our present knowledge and experience.

Description of the Chronic Aggressive Reaction. The chronic aggressive reaction pattern may best be defined as the naughty and rebellious child. The group contains many of the cases of so-called problem behavior cases found in schools and reported by parents, and a certain number of cases which find their way to the courts as delinquents. It does not comprise by any means all the cases of delinquency. The following case descriptions will make clearer the type of child and his behavoir.

Case 1. A boy of ten was extremely disobedient and unruly. He swore at and struck his mother and older sisters, and even attacked them with knives. He would refuse to get dressed in the morning, and often would refuse to eat. He would not stay at home but wondered off to places where his presence was forbidden. In school he was restless, and antagonistic to the teachers. Occasionally he truanted.

Case 2. A boy of nine disobeyed his mother and father constantly. He would argue if they asked him to do anything and if they rebuked him, he would swear at them, or destroy their valuable property. He stole much money. In the neighborhood, he stole, set fires, broke windows and milk bottles, and destroyed other property. He attacked other children, beating them brutally. He led a gang of delinquents. In school, if reprimanded, he attacked the teacher, destroyed school property, and ran out of the building. He truanted frequently.

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