FEBRUARY 20, 1947
NEW YORK, Wednesday—The other morning I went back to visit the Child Development Center which I recently opened, so as to see it when the children were there. In talking with the doctors, I found myself making a connection between the study of these children and the ultimate decision of what shall be done to protect the younger generation from the results of living in the modern world. I have watched the effects of bad housing and drunken parents, and have followed all the long miserable story which usually goes to the making of juvenile delinquency and ultimately adult crime.
We have had spelled out for us pretty clearly what happens when a youth just hasn't built up enough stamina to stand the strain of modern war. We know that some boys who should have been men cracked temporarily, and some cracked permanently, under the strain of the last war. We know that any future war is going to be more devastating. Out of this knowledge, we achieve a sense of bewilderment and we turn to the psychiatrist as our only hope to solve this problem. Heaven knows whether he can, but he probably is one of the few people consciously working on it.
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One thing I am sure is fortunate—namely, that we are going to study mental attitudes and strains where children are concerned. At the center, I saw a little girl who, because she had been a very tiny baby over whom her mother had agonized and watched with unremitting care, had now become completely dependent on her mother, so much so that she spoke to no one else. She is the victim not of her own fears, but of her mother's fears. The thing that stands out is how much parents often have to learn in dealing with themselves.
I saw a little boy who lives completely in a world of unreality. Sometimes he is Superman, sometimes he is some other character in the comic books. He is always the hero because, in real life, he has so little confidence in himself. One comes to recognize very quickly that this is no children's problem, but a joint family problem.
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When we grow to be mature men and women, I wonder if those of us who express so much fear in relation to the problems of the world are not simply reflecting fears which were not conquered in childhood. A woman said to me yesterday that she had been in Europe a great deal after the first World War, mainly in Germany, and she had had high hopes of a peaceful world. Now she had no hope for peace—she felt that it was just a question of who would use the atomic bomb first.
That is an expression of fear—fear of a power which we possess but are not sure that we can control, fear of what others may do with that power if, before long, they have it too. None of this spells maturity in the individual—and immature individuals mean immature nations.
Fears breed fears, and if we who are at present the strongest nation in the world have fear, we will breed it in other people. That is one reason why I dislike to see us so often take a negative attitude, both in our domestic affairs and in our foreign policy. I should like to see this country be for certain definite programs and go out and achieve them. Psychologically, that is a better attitude of mind in the world of the present.