Anthony Storr (review date 24 March 1990)
SOURCE: Storr, Anthony. “Suffering of the Little Children.” Spectator (24 March 1990): 29-30.
[In the following favorable review of Recollections and Reflections, Storr maintains that “Bettelheim's many admirers will not be disappointed by this final volume.”]
Bruno Bettelheim, who died last week in his 87th year, was the best-known child psychologist in the USA. This [Recollections and Reflections] is his 16th book. Most of the essays have been published before, but many have been revised, and some are appearing in English for the first time.
Bettelheim was born in Vienna in 1903. As an adolescent, he became interested in psychoanalysis because Otto Fenichel, later to become the author of a standard textbook of psychoanalysis, appeared to be appropriating his girl friend by filling her head full of Freud's teachings. Not to be outdone, Bettelheim bought all the Freudian writings he could find, and promptly became fascinated.
Two main themes derived from his personal experience pervade all Bettelheim's writings: the psychosocial milieu of the concentration camps and the treatment of psychologically disturbed children. Bettelheim himself was, for a year, confined in Dachau and then Buchenwald. After his release, in 1939, he emigrated to the US where he founded and became Director of the Orthogenic School in Chicago for the treatment of mentally ill children. His experience in concentration camps led to his recognition that a malignantly controlled environment can have disastrous effects upon the mental health of its inmates. He concluded that a properly constructed benign environment would have positive effects. So, instead of confining the psychological treatment of severely mentally ill children to psychoanalytic sessions, he designed what he...
(The entire section is 763 words.)