Dolto and the psychoanalytic approach to autism in France
This chapter looks at Dolto’s ideas in relation to autism, and the scandal around the relatively poor outcomes for French autistic children that emerged after 2000. It shows that Dolto played a significant and hitherto under-appreciated role in promoting psychoanalytic understandings and treatments of autism in France, specifically the idea of autism as resulting from defective or toxic mothering. The first part of the chapter places this aspect of her career in the context of the radical psychiatry movement of the 1960s and 1970s. It explores the relationship between radical psychiatry and Lacanian psychoanalysis, with particular reference to the ideas and work of Jean Oury, Félix Guattari and especially Maud Mannoni, a protégée of Dolto’s. It shows how Mannoni and Dolto saw so-called childhood psychoses, including autism, through the prism of antipsychiatric ideas, arguing that autism was not an inborn condition but the result of a pathogenic family environment. The second section examines Dolto’s popular book-length case study, Le Cas Dominique (1971). It shows how Dolto manipulated the narrative of the case to bring it under the pathogenic family paradigm that she had developed with Mannoni, blaming Dominique’s condition on his mother. The chapter also demonstrates the largely favourable reception of Le Cas Dominique in the French press – before, in a short final section, illustrating the links between the Dolto-Mannoni approach to autism and the twenty-first-century scandal.
This chapter examines Dolto’s family and social environment during her youth, looking especially at her family’s cultural and political values and its conception of women’s roles. It ultimately demonstrates that Dolto’s eventual hard-won break with her family’s right-wing ideological background was incomplete and less comprehensive than Dolto later suggested. The first half of the chapter examines the social and political beliefs of Dolto’s parents and wider milieu. It provides a portrait of upper-class girlhood in the interwar period, showing how – like her contemporaries Simone de Beauvoir and Élisabeth Lacoin (the ‘Zaza’ of Beauvoir’s memoirs) – Dolto struggled to escape the cultural expectations placed on young women from bourgeois families and assert her right to higher education and a medical career. The second half of the chapter looks at Dolto’s partial break with her family in the mid-1930s, her rejection of an approved marriage suitor, her subsequent turn to psychoanalysis and what this meant in the context of her family. René Laforgue was engaged by her father to psychoanalyse Dolto, but the analysis transformed her in unforeseen ways, reinforcing her separation from her family and leading her to seek to become an analyst herself. The chapter argues that this victory for the young Dolto came at the price of internalising anti-feminist views, as evidenced by her 1938 thesis, and reiterated throughout her career.
This chapter provides a history of psychoanalysis in France before 1939. It analyses the state of the French psychoanalytic movement (the Société Psychanalytique de Paris) both organisationally and (especially) ideologically, during the period of Dolto’s analysis and training between 1934 and 1939. The chapter begins by noting that Freudian psychoanalysis became established significantly (fifteen to twenty years) later in France than in comparable countries, and providing an explanation for this in the context of the politics of science and medicine in the Third Republic. The late beginnings of French psychoanalysis had consequences for its eventual intellectual and social composition, and thus for its ideological orientation at the time of Dolto’s arrival in the group. Its early theoretical debates were shaped by the wider French context of interwar natalism and political discourse around the family, and by the need to acquire medical patrons in order to make institutional headway. The patronage of the psychiatrist Georges Heuyer was particularly important. While the early French psychoanalytic movement was politically diverse, those who mentored Dolto, notably Édouard Pichon and René Laforgue, were from its Catholic, French-nationalist wing. These analysts drew on anti-feminist currents in the international psychoanalytic movement to develop a theory of ‘family neurosis’ in which mothers, in particular, were thought to pass on psychological faults and complexes to their children. Dolto, in turn, made these ideas cornerstones of her own thinking.
This chapter explores Dolto’s interactions with the French public between 1945 and 1968. It centres on the issues of liberal parenting and patriarchal family structures, demonstrating how Dolto advocated the former without calling the latter into question. It places her ideas in these years in the context of contemporary social change, especially the battle for increased reproductive and civil rights for women, which Dolto opposed. The first part of the chapter looks at the École des Parents, a Parisian institute offering parenting training and marriage counselling, arguing that after 1945 this became a vehicle for Dolto and other Laforguian psychoanalysts to disseminate psychoanalytic thinking, and especially their ideas about family structures and gender roles. The second section examines the Centres Médico-Psycho-Pédagogiques (CMPPs) – state-funded, psychoanalytically oriented medical clinics for children from non-wealthy backgrounds, in which Dolto participated from the 1940s. It demonstrates that while the CMPPs were successful in terms of enabling psychoanalysts to engage with families from far lower down the income spectrum than those in private practice, their location within the medical bureaucracy made them less effective in spreading enthusiasm for psychoanalysis among ordinary French people. The final part of the chapter studies Dolto’s interventions on French radio in 1950 on the subject of sex education, showing how she used this platform both to promote the acceptance of psychoanalysts as experts, and to disseminate her views on the importance of bringing up children according to a strongly binary conception of gender roles.
Dolto, psychoanalysis and Catholicism from Occupation to Liberation
This chapter explores Dolto’s early career, which began in the context of World War II, and her ideological development in the postwar years up to 1953. The first section situates Dolto with respect to the tendency towards holistic thinking among influential 1930s intellectuals, technocrats and policy makers. Believing in the potential of holistic medicine and humanist Catholicism to help bring about a national recovery, Dolto initially perceived revitalising possibilities in Pétainism. The chapter describes her work for the Fondation Carrel and her writings for the Vichyite magazine Vrai. However, it also shows that her ideas were not inseparably wedded to right-wing politics, and that in the Liberation period she worked with politicians and publications of the Left. The chapter further examines Dolto’s Christianity in the context of broader developments in French Catholicism and psychoanalysis after 1945. It analyses her writings for Psyché and Études carmélitaines, journals that explored overlaps and syntheses between Catholicism and psychoanalysis, especially the themes of sexuality and guilt. It shows that these journals were run by people with histories of wartime collaboration, and that the 1953 split in French psychoanalysis had political, religious and racial undertones linked to the war years. Dolto was a central figure in the split, clashing in particular with Sacha Nacht, a Jewish analyst and former resister, revealing antisemitic prejudices in the process. The split resulted in Dolto being excluded from the International Psychoanalytic Association, and becoming closely allied with her fellow international outcast, Jacques Lacan.
This introductory chapter establishes the extent of Dolto’s fame and status in France, and the ‘mania’ of parents to apply her ideas in the last decades of the twentieth century. It describes Dolto’s core ideas and the historical backdrop, especially in the mid-1970s, that contributed to her phenomenal cultural success. The chapter also gives some background to the French psychoanalytic movement and its place in French society by the 1970s. It sets out the contrast between Jacques Lacan, widely seen as the towering figure of that movement, and Dolto – a child analyst who is less well known outside France, but arguably more popular within it. Dolto and Lacan were friends and allies, but they spoke to very different audiences in different ways. Where Lacan’s was elite and intellectual, Dolto spoke to a mainly female audience of parents/grandparents and people who worked with children. Dolto is presented as a thoroughly political figure, especially in the area of family and gender politics. Her advice to patients is shown to have been based on a nostalgic, conservative social vision. Her understanding of childhood determinism, one of her central ideas, led logically to blaming mothers for their children’s psychological problems and encouraging them not to work outside of the home. The chapter also situates the book with respect to the relevant historiography, especially key works by Dagmar Herzog, Michal Shapira and Camille Robcis. The final part gives a brief description of the book’s structure and outlines the contents of the remaining chapters.
In Psychoanalysis and the family, Richard Bates reveals the striking range and extent of the influence of Françoise Dolto (1908–88) – child psychoanalyst and France’s leading authority on parenting and family dynamics from the 1970s onwards. Against the backdrop of rapid economic, social and cultural change, Dolto emerged as a new, reassuring, national presence. Seen as a national treasure, her views proved influential on a wide range of issues linked to psychology, parenting, education, gender, sexuality, bioethics and children’s culture and rights. Dolto claimed the mantle of a progressive, innovative expert who swept away outdated concepts – but Bates demonstrates that her ideas in fact had deep roots in right-wing, anti-feminist currents. Dolto used her media platforms and the cultural authority of psychoanalysis to ensure that her psychoanalytic vision affected the whole French nation and was implanted in a variety of institutional settings. Bates shows how her vision had lasting repercussions, in areas ranging from the treatment of autism to the organisation of children’s centres. In demonstrating Dolto’s importance, this highly original, thoroughly researched book makes an essential contribution to historical understanding of twentieth-century French society. It forces a reassessment of the place of psychoanalysis in French social history, showing that its true significance lay well beyond the academic seminar or the consulting room.
This chapter looks at Dolto as a national broadcaster and popular child-rearing expert. It situates Dolto in the context of the history of French radio, with particular reference to other broadcasters – Clara Candiani, Madame Soleil and especially Ménie Grégoire – who used radio to create a sense of intimacy and community around discussions of personal-yet-public issues. It analyses in some detail Dolto’s radio shows S.O.S. Psychanalyste! (1968–69) and Lorsque l’enfant paraît (‘When the baby comes’ or ‘When the child appears’, 1976–78), looking at what kinds of people listened and took part, what issues were raised and how Dolto responded to them. It demonstrates that Dolto used these shows to disseminate psychoanalytic thinking to ordinary parents and to promote her vision of the family based on paternal authority and heteronormative gender divisions. The chapter also examines Dolto’s attitudes towards homosexuality and education. It describes an episode in which Dolto attacked a children’s publisher for disseminating ‘dangerous’ material that in her view undermined gender divisions. It also explores her participation in creating a private school, La Neuville, which embodied her utopian vision and her opposition to the republican educational model. The last section analyses the Maison Verte children’s centres, whose creation and ethos were inspired by Dolto. It argues that these centres succeeded to an unparalleled degree in embedding psychoanalytic thinking within state-sponsored childcare provision, with impacts that continue to this day.
This contribution brings together the history of psychiatry and the history of disability in Belgium, for the period stretching from the end of the eighteenth century up till the end of the twentieth century. The chapter starts with enumerating several key reasons why such an approach is not only possible, but also valuable and innovative. On the basis of different case studies related to the history of disability and the history of psychiatry, the specificity of Belgian care and medicine is being discussed. Some of the themes being touched upon are the introduction of Belgian psychiatric legislation, the emergence of educational institutes for blind and/or deaf people, the impact of the First World War on representation of otherness and the well-known tradition of family care for psychiatric patients. On the basis of these and other case studies it is, first of all, argued that the Belgian state played an active role in the problematisation of mental and physical differences, but that it actually was private institutions, mainly religious congregations, who managed these populations on a daily basis. Second, the chapter pleads also to take into consideration the agency of the people who were controlled and disciplined; they were not only able to oppose and reinterpret the categories and norms that were imposed on them; they also used these labels to construct new (positive) identities – bringing them into competition with physicians, experts, bureaucrats, etc. By highlighting the variety of different players involved, this chapter illustrates the general theme of this section, ‘Beyond Physicians’.
The epilogue takes stock of the merit and potential of the ‘new narratives’ presented in this volume. As a whole, the volume intends to do two things: empirically, it presents medical histories on Belgium to the Anglophone world while, conceptually, it does so by using the latest methods and perspectives. While ‘traditional’ medical history mainly represented stories about medical science, the medical profession and the state, these new narratives are (also) about patients, alternative healers, clergymen, women and other historical actors. With its contributors writing after many ‘turns’ (social, cultural, performative, praxeological, material and somatic), the ambition of the present volume is to move beyond science, the profession and the state. Like medicine, medical history is not owned by physicians, but by all of us. While in the past, medical history was written by male, Western physicians, today’s medical history is (also) written by historians, women and non-Westerners, producing multiperspective and multivocal stories. While some may regret this development because of the fragmentation it entails, much is to be gained by including all historical actors. Moving beyond the great doctors, decentring the big picture and provincialising Europe leads to a diversity of narratives – representing the diversity of today’s world.