Keith's Reviews > The Sexual Enlightenment of Children

The Sexual Enlightenment of Children by Sigmund Freud
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's review
May 12, 2012

liked it
bookshelves: x-one-dollar, psychology, _destroyed
Recommended for: Parents of small children
Read from May 12 to 22, 2012

Collects several of Freud's works, including the case study popularly known as "Little Hans," dealing with issues of sexuality among very young children. This is not, however, a study of pedophilia nor of "perversion" in the colloquial sense: the "enlightenment" of the title refers not to corruption or co-optation, but rather to the process of giving children more of the factual knowledge which they seem so desperately to seek despite adult discomfort with the topic. That is to say, replacing the stories of the stork or the cabbage patch with some degree of truth about human reproduction.

At the time of its writing, it was apparently common for parents erroneously to believe their older children were oblivious to the physiological changes in their own mothers immediately prior to the appearance of a new sibling. The dissonance resulting from the conflict between their own experiential evidence and the "information" provided by the trusted authority of the parents, Freud suggests, may lead to neuroses sooner or later, and explain much otherwise inexplicable childhood behavior. All of Freud's analysis is, of course, rooted in his own libido theory of instincts and the psychoanalytic id/ego construction of consciousness, and all of his analytic experience is with Victorian Europeans; thus, some of the conclusions can seem of limited applicability today, and may yet be a good reminder of the potential repercussions of outright lying to one's offspring rather than simply limiting their access to information to that which they are capable of comprehending.

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Quotes Keith Liked

Sigmund Freud
“The freeing of an individual, as he grows up, from the authority of his parents is one of the most necessary though one of the most painful results brought about by the course of his development. It is quite essential that that liberation should occur and it may be presumed that it has been to some extent achieved by everyone who has reached a normal state. Indeed, the whole progress of society rests upon the opposition between successive generations. On the other hand, there is a class of neurotics whose condition is recognizably determined by their having failed in this task.”
Sigmund Freud, The Sexual Enlightenment of Children

Sigmund Freud
“Theoretical considerations require that what is to-day the object of a phobia must at one time in the past have been the source of a high degree of pleasure.”
Sigmund Freud, The Sexual Enlightenment of Children

Reading Progress

05/16 page 46
24.0% ""On the Sexual Theories of Children" & "Family Romances" (1908)"
05/21 page 184
96.0% "'Analysis of a Phobia in a Five-Year-Old Boy [Little Hans]' (1909) [1923]"
05/24 page 192
100.0% "'Infantile Mental Life: Two Lies Told by Children'"
04/13 marked as: read

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