The Importance of Child Psychology for the Proper Development of a Child

In the “bad” old days, mother craft was not treated very scientifically. Babies were born, and often died, in quick succession. Little was known about scientific infant-feel­ing. Superstition was rife what the mother saw or felt during pregnancy was thought to influence the unborn child for his future good or ill. The baby was swathed in many shawls and many petticoats, and closely protected from too much fresh air. Many old wives’ tales were told of the dire consequences of different methods of treatment. Grandparents predicted the child’s future career with authority. It is probable, however, that the baby was surrounded by loving care as well as much sentiment, and in modern days the scientific rearing of young children- which suggests the rearing of chicks in an incubator-may have lost much of the genuineness of material feeling and the spontaneity of expression.

Our great grandparents, no doubt, sang and rocked their babies to sleep, spoon-fed them to a late age, and fondled and fussed over them unhesitatingly. Many psychologists, nowadays, would prefer the great grandmother’s methods in so far as they expressed natu­ral affection and helped the baby to feel loved and wanted and secure, although his growing up may have been re­tarded and made somewhat more difficult by these meth­ods. I saw a boy of nine recently whose father had died when he was a few months old. His mother, anxious to keep the family business going, delegated the care of baby to two nurses in a maternity home.

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She visited him at weekends, but never interfered with his upbringing be­cause she thought they must know best. At the age of nine she had taken him to live with her, and was surprised to find that he took advantage of his new freedom to go off on adventures of his own, and took money to spend lavishly.


She also learned for the first time that ever since he was a little boy he usually cried himself to sleep because he wanted his own mother. A little spoiling and a normal home life would have made all the difference to that boy.

Another baby I know had a particularly difficult up­bringing. Her mother was a nervous, over-wrought and unstable woman.

She became so difficult and unreliable at times that her baby had often to be taken from her and given to a neighbor to take care of later, the mother had to have treatment in a mental hospital.


On her return, she was tragically downed while trying to rescue her other child. At the outbreak of war Mary was ten years of age, and was evacuated to America, where she spent a very happy five years.

On her return she found a stepmother and a baby stepbrother. It is no wonder that she found adjustment a little difficult, and that her parents were apprehensive lest she develop the same traits as her mother.

Psychological investigations revealed a panic feeling that she might die-an acute fear of death and a perfec­tionist ideal of herself quite out of keeping with her true nature. Clearly, she had felt acutely frightened and inse­cure in babyhood.

The most essential part of the baby’s upbringing is that he shall feel secure and happy as often as possible, and insecure and frightened as seldom as possible.


In the pre-natal condition, the fetus is kept warm, safe and comfortable in the mother’s womb.

Birth the physical exertion, the sudden change of temperature, the loss of the ease and comfort of his position, the contact with hard surfaces, strange lights and noises, and the parting from his mother in a very literal sense must in­volve a serious disturbance to his psychic equilibrium as well as to his physical condition.

He greets his new environment with a cry-if he is a healthy baby-and he sleeps as often as possible in the first few months, shutting out all the disturbing stimuli which impinge on his senses.

His great craving, however, is for food and in his waking moments his mind and his body seem concentrated to gain this end. It is not, therefore, in the least surprising to find that the keenest intellectual activity and the strongest emotional expression are shown in relation to the feeling process.

The baby adapts his body, watches for his mother, gazes at her facet: he shows eagerness and delight when his need is satisfied, anxiety and anger when it is frustrated.

The healthy, comfortable baby, who is well fed and well cared for, appears placid and contented. The ailing baby, ill at ease, undernourished and carelessly looked after, appears unhappy and disturbed.


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