1 - Anxiety and its disorders in children and adolescents before the twentieth century  pp. 1-22

Anxiety and its disorders in children and adolescents before the twentieth century

By Philip D. A. Treffers and Wendy K. Silverman

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Fear is, I think, the greatest mental suffering for children.

George Sand (1854–1855)

Introduction

Little Hans and little Albert are so well-known that one might easily get the impression that Freud (1909) and Watson (Watsony & Rayner, 1920) were the first to ‘discover’ anxiety and its disorders in children. This impression is likely to be reinforced by a reading of the contemporary child psychiatry and psychology literatures. These literatures are basically characterized by an absence of any mention about the existence of anxiety and its disorders as phenomena that existed in childhood prior to the year 1900. Klein & Last (1989) are among the few contemporary authors to note that anxiety and its disorders in children were mentioned by others as existing before this time period (they refer to Kraepelin (1883) and Emminghaus (1887) as the first authors to report anxiety states in children and adolescents).

In this first chapter, we present a historical perspective of anxiety and its disorders in childhood and adolescence in terms of how they were viewed in psychiatry and psychology prior to the twentieth century. We chose to focus our attention on this time period because we were more interested in exploring ‘uncharted waters’ than charted waters. That is, as noted, we believe most readers are already generally familiar with the main developments that occurred during the twentieth century (e.g. Little Hans and Little Albert).