Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Dishonest children and appropriate diagnosis

At no time, up to the present, has a single child ever told me as an excuse for a delinquency or for misbehavior that comic books were to blame. Nor do I nor my associates ever question a child in such a way as to suggest that to him. If I find a child with fever I do not ask him, "What is the cause of your fever? Do you have measles?" I examine him and make my own diagnosis. It is our clinical judgment, in all kinds of behavior disorders and personality difficulties of children, that comic books do play a part. Of course they are not in the textbooks. But once alerted to the possibility, we unexpectedly found, in case after case, that comic books were a contributing factor not to be neglected. I asked psychiatric colleagues, child psychologists and social workers. They knew nothing about comic books. They knew that there were such little books; they might even have had them in their waiting rooms. And they knew about funny animal stories that children liked to read. Comic books, they assumed, were just reprints of comic strips from newspapers or Sunday supplements—"like 'BRINGING UP FATHER,' you know"—or other such humorous sequences. Why, they felt, should any physician take a serious interest in them?