Infants without Families; the Case for and against Residential Nurseries

By Anna Freud; Dorothy Burlingham | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION OF THE MOTHER-RELATIONSHIP INTO NURSERY-LIFE

IT is a fallacy to conclude that the variety of emotions which the young child in a residential nursery develops towards the playmates of its own age-group, can make up in any way for the emotions which it would normally direct towards its parents. The latter remain undeveloped and unsatisfied, but many observations show that they are latent in the child and ready to leap into action the moment the slightest opportunity for attachment is offered by the outward circumstances. This is all the more noticeable, the less a child has knowledge of, or opportunity to form an emotional attachment to, its own mother.


FORMATION OF ARTIFICIAL FAMILIES.

We have repeatedly made the experiment of dividing up some large "age groups" of children into small units of 3, 4 or 5 under the guidance of one young nurse or teacher who acted as their foster mother where motherly care was concerned. In all these instances the group reactions of the children quickly changed to the emotional reactions of children in a natural family setting. They formed a strong and possessive attachment to their nurse and were at the same time more exacting, but also more willing to make sacrifices for her, than they had been before. Certain steps in development which had been difficult or impossible in the group setting, as for instance habit training, were under

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