Nervous Children

Janet Oppenheim

in “Shattered Nerves”

Published in print July 1991 | ISBN: 9780195057812
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199854394 | DOI:
Nervous Children

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When Victorian and Edwardian doctors worried about the nervous instability of British women, they were often thinking about the children that neurotic females might produce. It was a medical platitude in the 19th and early 20th centuries that nervous mothers bore nervous children. As with adult patients, doctors wielded the language of neurology and psychiatry to justify their intervention as moral managers of childhood. Furthermore, they accepted the underlying assumptions that guided their pronouncements as unquestioningly as they embraced those that informed their visions of adulthood. They rarely, if ever, stopped to examine the role of environmental agents in accentuating the differences between boys and girls, because they viewed those differences as innate. Meanwhile, Crichton-Browne showed real sympathy toward neurotic children partly because he dreaded seeing the emergence of neurasthenic adults.

Keywords: Edwardian doctors; nervousness; nervous children; childhood; child psychology; Crichton-Brown

Chapter.  17901 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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