Review of The Child in America by W. I. Thomas and D. S. Thomas

Clarence Stone

THE CHILD IN AMERICA. By W. I. Thomas and D. S. Thomas. New York: Knopf, 1928. Pp. xiν+583, xviii.

This voluminous work deals in Part One with the varieties of maladjustment, in Part Two with practical programs for amelioration, and in Part Three with research programs.

Part One presents forty-six ease studies illustrating the forms of maladjustment. The frequency with which the authors draw in these ease studies on the work of Healy and Brunner is a token of our obligation to these clinicians.

Part Two treats of the agencies of correction. Most types of institutions for the reclamation of youth are of doubtful value, many of them positively pernicious; but the Berkshire Industrial Farm, the Children's Village, and the George Junior Republic receive the commendation of the authors. Whereas ordinarily schools wield little influence in delinquency problems, those schools which follow the Dalton or Winnetka plans do seem somewhat to salvage children with delinquent trends. Few psychiatric child guidance clinics are successful: some fail because their programs are not based on the child's needs, some because they dwell on disturbing mental conflicts rather than on wholesome activity. Most boy organizations, such as the Boy Scouts, whatever their effect on the normal boy, have little appeal for the problem boy; a few organizations, such as the Union League Club of Chicago, are effective because they are designed to meet specifically the interests of the problem boy. As for the more patent attempts at character education, little good has resulted because of the almost universal neglect of individual differences in personality. Education in the home is a most vital factor; but the poorer homes, from which most delinquents come, almost no present form of parent education reaches. The authors conclude, consequently, that few

( 241) of the practical programs to eliminate maladjustment in children are themselves sufficiently adjusted to be of either considerable or enduring value.

Part Three will be of most interest to psychologists. Here we have an inclusive survey of the instrumentalities for the study of the maladjusted child.

Regarding personality tests, the authors indicate that "very few of these tests have been checked up against criteria of successful adjustment outside of the test situation. Where they have been, they seem to give prognoses of success that are less valid than the prognoses given by intelligence tests." The recency of the scientific study of personality suggests patience until workers interested in personality defects have exhausted their ingenuity and have experimented with sufficient variables of the situation. The authors seem to be doubting Thomases, however.

Before the psychiatric work can be of widest service, we need to learn from an adequate sampling of the population how abnormal "normal" children are. The specialization of the psychiatric data, and the survival of outworn systems of classification, the authors regard as serious barriers to understanding through psychiatry. But we are indebted to the psychiatrists, none the less, for "the accumulation of a large number of case records prepared with increasing fidelity and completeness".

Studies of the physiological and morphological basis of personality or character are suggestive, but are lacking in tangibility and adequate verification.

The sociological approach the authors regard as most fruitful. We are in need of extensive and varied studies (such as those of Watson, Buhler, Piaget, and Anderson and Goodenough) of the behavior patterns of children at stated ages and with respect to particular environmental factors. Extending such studies of situational character to various groups, we "may be expected to reveal comparatively and in the most general way the situations within which particular maladjustments (delinquency, crime, the psychoneuroses) tend to appear, and the situations and habit systems unfavorable to their appearance; or, more positively, the situations within which the activities are integrated about particular interests, leading to pursuits, rôles, and careers''.

It should be added that the sociological approach, granting it to be most useful, cannot attain to its full fruition without the continued data and interpretations of personality testing, psychiatry, and physiological and morphological study.



No notes

Valid HTML 4.01 Strict Valid CSS2