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Sterba, E. (1945). Interpretation and Education. Psychoanal. St. Child, 1:309-317.

(1945). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 1:309-317

Interpretation and Education

Editha Sterba, Ph.D.

Publications dealing with education based on psychoanalytic insight frequently discuss the part played by interpretations given to the child, without either clearly stating what "interpretation" may mean in their context or fully realizing that the child's reaction to a psychoanalytic interpretation may be vastly different from an adult's. In recent years a change has gradually taken place, the implications of which I here attempt to discuss.

The application of psychoanalytic principles in education in its first and primitive stage was based on the following assumption: neurosis results from repression of instinctual drives; the prevention of neurosis, as one essential aim of education, must therefore avoid or abolish these repressions. The child was to be spared traumata and prevented from developing anxiety. In order to avoid incorrect ideas concerning the sexual life of the adult—the role of which in the neuroses of the child was being confirmed by a steady flow of clinical observations—complete information on the facts of life was to be given as early as possible. In order to avoid the repression of instinctual drives, all manifestations of sexual or aggressive tendencies were to be interpreted thoroughly. All the contents of the id were to be interpreted and made conscious, without consideration for the infantile ego. No thought was given to the question of how these instinctual tendencies were to be mastered, or to the fact that a weak and immature ego would need a great deal of help in controlling them. The ego was to be spared the necessity of repression; it was thought that through interpretation the energy of the id would be put entirely at the disposal of the ego.

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