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International Socialism, Autumn 1962


Peter Ibbotson

Young Rebels


From International Socialism, No.10, Autumn 1962, p.32.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


A Cure of Delinquents
Robert W Shields
Heinemann. 21s.

City boys who are maladjusted should not go into the countryside for treatment. Familiar surroundings have definite therapeutic value; the London County Council was right in establishing an experimental school for maladjusted boys in busy built-up Peckham.

The school is Bredinghurst, established in 1948 as the first school for maladjusted children in England to incorporate into its structure a full psychiatric unit, thus bringing into close association teachers, child care staff, and a psychiatric team. For eleven years Dr Shields was the school’s psychotherapist and in his book he relates some of the methods he adopted in the boys’ treatment as well as setting out at length some actual case histories of the boys themselves.

From his experience Dr Shields says that the vast majority of maladjusted children can be treated successfully in an educational setting. This is something that Bredinghurst does; the normal educational programme is never ignored despite emphasis on the school’s psychiatric orientation. The actual treatment is important and Dr Shields recommends a middle course between do-as-you-please and harsh restrictive discipline.

The root causes of maladjustment and anti-social behaviour are not merely the result of intrapsychic splits between the id, the ego and the superego, but lie in a three-way reaction of the child’s primitive ego to specific traumatic experiences visa-vis his environment. The child’s survival and total security depend upon the alleviation of such traumatic experiences by psychotherapy in a therapeutic environment; not by old-fashioned probation Or committal to a remand home or approved school by penelogically illiterate magistrates, suspicious of psychotherapy because it lies outwith their smug suburban ken, to whom the maladjusted delinquent is a potential recidivist instead of a person who can be led back to conformity. The value of the pioneer work done by the L.C.C. at Bredinghurst—pioneer work which would not have been contemplated by a smaller local authority such as the Government proposes for the London area—is underlined in Dr Shields’ last paragraph:

‘We, on the psychiatric side, benefited from working so closely with the educational and child-care staff and it is heartening to reflect that other schools and other local authorities are adopting very similar methods, and among sensitive and aware administrators we have found wide support.’

It is very clear that successful psychiatric treatment during childhood removes the tendency towards anti-social behaviour in the maladjusted teenager; there would be considerable community as well as individual benefit if Bredinghurst were multiplied a thousandfold over Great Britain.

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