We were interested to consider, from a historical perspective, how ideas about close observation, child development, and the nature/nurture debate have evolved since 1945. Our focus was largely on clinical and theoretical developments in the post-war decades, including the fields of baby observation, cinematic microanalysis, play technique and the therapeutic use of children’s art.
More generally, this symposium explored a new strand of research within the Hidden Persuaders group, which focuses on how notions of thought control, autonomy and influence change when we consider not only the psychology of adults, but also of children and adolescents. We examine how questions of nurture rather than nature became vitally important after 1945, as societies began to construct a moral vision for a new generation of Cold War babies. We also explore the legacies of these debates for visions of the self, and for child psychiatry and psychotherapy today. This work aims to provoke debate and reflection on historical and contemporary attitudes to the shaping of the mind during childhood and adolescence, opening up a space for discussion about the origins of both psychological harm and mental health.
Episodes can be found online here.