ABSTRACT

I. Children's Theories A CHILD guesses or is told at a very early age that the mother is the giver of life; but children have theories of their own in this matter. It cannot understand where the father comes in; nor does it attach any significance to the part the genital organs play. This twofold lack of knowledge is made up for by children forming their own theories, such as that the mother brings a baby into the world after eating certain food-this supposition arising out of reading (or being told) fairy tales. Erna, a girl of six and a half years wonders whether the baby is expelled by way of the mouth or the breast. Of one thing she is certain, however, and this is that would-be mothers have to drink milk and eat white bread. During the war her mother had no babies, and this Erna can only explain by attributing the fact to the lack of suitable food. I Many children fancy that birth takes place through the navel or the anus. A boy of six was given a full explanation of the phenomenon of birth. The information seemed to come as something quite new to him. When asked, "Did you not already know about it? " he answered, "Oh yes, but I thought it came out of the bottom." The excretory and the genital organs often get confused into one single cloaca. Truth to tell, the child's imagination never gets seriously to work on the subject, so that identical theories are met with time and again. Those enumerated above are, according to Freud, the most prevalent.l

These birth theories, so general among children, are

usually forgotten as the youngsters grow up, or, rather, they are repressed. Psychoanalysis had first to come to the rescue in order to bring them back to the surface and to discover how almost universal they are among the young. The recollection of them is often masked behind a screen memory.