Heredity as a burden: Causes of children's behavioural problems in Finnish psychiatry between the 1920s and 1950s

Katariina Parhi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

This article analyses interpretations of the causes of children's behavioural problems in early child psychiatry in Finland from the 1920s until the 1950s. The era was pre-psychodynamic, and psychiatrists stressed biological explanations, which were based on hereditary factors. The source material consists of patient records of children diagnosed with psychopathy in Pitkaniemi Hospital, which operated as one of the state mental hospitals. The focus is on the ways in which the causes of behavioural problems were described, paying special attention to mentions of socioeconomic factors, and adopting a present-centred perspective on analysing the past. Although psychiatrists described details like family background and parental occupations, they did not necessarily use them to point out connections between socioeconomic factors and behavioural problems. On the contrary, in many cases, there was no indicated correlation. This is not to say that socioeconomic factors did not exist or were not acknowledged, but rather that they were discussed in a different light. The assumption of biologically oriented psychiatry, namely that behavioural problems were primarily hereditary, is prevalent in the case records. Some children improved while in hospital and subsequently returned home, or were placed with other families, or in children's homes. Those who were perceived to be permanently antisocial were placed in reform schools. The change in a child's behaviour seems to have been crucial in forming a prognosis, which implies that there was a clear belief in the curative atmosphere of the hospital, providing that the child's character was corrigible. The focus on socioeconomic factors contrasts with the ways in which psychiatrists at that time perceived and documented the causes of behavioural problems, and helps explain why something, which seems evident in retrospect, was not apparent at the time.

Translated title of the contributionPerinnöllisyys taakkana: Lasten käytösongelmien syyt suomalaispsykiatriassa 1920-luvulta 1950-luvulle
Original languageEnglish
Article number3
JournalPalgrave Communications
Volume5
Number of pages8
ISSN2055-1045
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2019
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • HISTORY
  • 515 Psychology
  • 3124 Neurology and psychiatry

Cite this

@article{350a95254d364910a5b8985b5b9f1d7d,
title = "Heredity as a burden: Causes of children's behavioural problems in Finnish psychiatry between the 1920s and 1950s",
abstract = "This article analyses interpretations of the causes of children's behavioural problems in early child psychiatry in Finland from the 1920s until the 1950s. The era was pre-psychodynamic, and psychiatrists stressed biological explanations, which were based on hereditary factors. The source material consists of patient records of children diagnosed with psychopathy in Pitkaniemi Hospital, which operated as one of the state mental hospitals. The focus is on the ways in which the causes of behavioural problems were described, paying special attention to mentions of socioeconomic factors, and adopting a present-centred perspective on analysing the past. Although psychiatrists described details like family background and parental occupations, they did not necessarily use them to point out connections between socioeconomic factors and behavioural problems. On the contrary, in many cases, there was no indicated correlation. This is not to say that socioeconomic factors did not exist or were not acknowledged, but rather that they were discussed in a different light. The assumption of biologically oriented psychiatry, namely that behavioural problems were primarily hereditary, is prevalent in the case records. Some children improved while in hospital and subsequently returned home, or were placed with other families, or in children's homes. Those who were perceived to be permanently antisocial were placed in reform schools. The change in a child's behaviour seems to have been crucial in forming a prognosis, which implies that there was a clear belief in the curative atmosphere of the hospital, providing that the child's character was corrigible. The focus on socioeconomic factors contrasts with the ways in which psychiatrists at that time perceived and documented the causes of behavioural problems, and helps explain why something, which seems evident in retrospect, was not apparent at the time.",
keywords = "HISTORY, 515 Psychology, 3124 Neurology and psychiatry",
author = "Katariina Parhi",
year = "2019",
month = "1",
day = "15",
doi = "10.1057/s41599-018-0209-2",
language = "English",
volume = "5",
journal = "Palgrave Communications",
issn = "2055-1045",
publisher = "Palgrave Macmillan",

}

Heredity as a burden : Causes of children's behavioural problems in Finnish psychiatry between the 1920s and 1950s. / Parhi, Katariina.

In: Palgrave Communications, Vol. 5, 3, 15.01.2019.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

TY - JOUR

T1 - Heredity as a burden

T2 - Causes of children's behavioural problems in Finnish psychiatry between the 1920s and 1950s

AU - Parhi, Katariina

PY - 2019/1/15

Y1 - 2019/1/15

N2 - This article analyses interpretations of the causes of children's behavioural problems in early child psychiatry in Finland from the 1920s until the 1950s. The era was pre-psychodynamic, and psychiatrists stressed biological explanations, which were based on hereditary factors. The source material consists of patient records of children diagnosed with psychopathy in Pitkaniemi Hospital, which operated as one of the state mental hospitals. The focus is on the ways in which the causes of behavioural problems were described, paying special attention to mentions of socioeconomic factors, and adopting a present-centred perspective on analysing the past. Although psychiatrists described details like family background and parental occupations, they did not necessarily use them to point out connections between socioeconomic factors and behavioural problems. On the contrary, in many cases, there was no indicated correlation. This is not to say that socioeconomic factors did not exist or were not acknowledged, but rather that they were discussed in a different light. The assumption of biologically oriented psychiatry, namely that behavioural problems were primarily hereditary, is prevalent in the case records. Some children improved while in hospital and subsequently returned home, or were placed with other families, or in children's homes. Those who were perceived to be permanently antisocial were placed in reform schools. The change in a child's behaviour seems to have been crucial in forming a prognosis, which implies that there was a clear belief in the curative atmosphere of the hospital, providing that the child's character was corrigible. The focus on socioeconomic factors contrasts with the ways in which psychiatrists at that time perceived and documented the causes of behavioural problems, and helps explain why something, which seems evident in retrospect, was not apparent at the time.

AB - This article analyses interpretations of the causes of children's behavioural problems in early child psychiatry in Finland from the 1920s until the 1950s. The era was pre-psychodynamic, and psychiatrists stressed biological explanations, which were based on hereditary factors. The source material consists of patient records of children diagnosed with psychopathy in Pitkaniemi Hospital, which operated as one of the state mental hospitals. The focus is on the ways in which the causes of behavioural problems were described, paying special attention to mentions of socioeconomic factors, and adopting a present-centred perspective on analysing the past. Although psychiatrists described details like family background and parental occupations, they did not necessarily use them to point out connections between socioeconomic factors and behavioural problems. On the contrary, in many cases, there was no indicated correlation. This is not to say that socioeconomic factors did not exist or were not acknowledged, but rather that they were discussed in a different light. The assumption of biologically oriented psychiatry, namely that behavioural problems were primarily hereditary, is prevalent in the case records. Some children improved while in hospital and subsequently returned home, or were placed with other families, or in children's homes. Those who were perceived to be permanently antisocial were placed in reform schools. The change in a child's behaviour seems to have been crucial in forming a prognosis, which implies that there was a clear belief in the curative atmosphere of the hospital, providing that the child's character was corrigible. The focus on socioeconomic factors contrasts with the ways in which psychiatrists at that time perceived and documented the causes of behavioural problems, and helps explain why something, which seems evident in retrospect, was not apparent at the time.

KW - HISTORY

KW - 515 Psychology

KW - 3124 Neurology and psychiatry

U2 - 10.1057/s41599-018-0209-2

DO - 10.1057/s41599-018-0209-2

M3 - Article

VL - 5

JO - Palgrave Communications

JF - Palgrave Communications

SN - 2055-1045

M1 - 3

ER -