Child Psychiatry and Human Development

, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 213–221 | Cite as

Child abandonment: Historical, sociological and psychological perspectives

  • Michael H. Burnstein


Even though the act of physical child abandonment is a relatively common occurrence, it remains an understudied social phenomena. It has been an act of parents since earliest times, but even in our modern enlightened society, children are still ejected from their homes and physically abandoned in frightening numbers. Even though attention has been directed toward the understanding and combating of the numerous variations of child abuse and neglect, the problem of physical abandonment is rarely discussed until sensationalistic news reports emerge to remind us that children are still left in parks or on street corners. To further understand this phenomena of child abandonment, this paper reviews the literature and examines the process from historical, sociological and psychological perspectives. This report looks to stimulate further interest in physical child abandonment and its precursor, psychological child rejection, as forms of child abuse and neglect which can and should be combated by proper psychiatric intervention.


Social Psychology Early Time Child Abuse Common Occurrence Numerous Variation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Harrison S: Child psychiatry: Residential treatment. In A Freedman, H Kaplan, and B Sadock (Eds)Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry, Second Edition, 1975.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Fortier B: Foundlings in French-Canada (I) (1775–1959).Union Med Can 101: 715–720, 1972.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Lewis M, Solnit A: Residential treatment. In A Freedman, H Kaplan, and B Sadock (Eds)Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry, Second Edition, 1975.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Bianchi Z: Problems of abandoned children, adoption of foster parents.Minerva Nipiol 17: 13–28, 1967.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Barthelemy J: Social aspects of child abandonment.Rev Med Liege 27: 414–418, 1972.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Fortier B: Foundlings in French Canada (II) 1869–1935. The Protestant Infants Home.Union Med Canada 101: 715–720, 1972.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Dunausky J: Somatic changes in children admitted to a children's village.CAS LEK CESK 111: 1181–1185, 1972.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    The social problem child, round table discussion of the French child neuropsychopath: Study group.Rev Neuropsychiatr Inf 21: 204–216, 1973.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Blain A: The role of pediatricians in the diagnosis and prevention of socially deprived children.Pediatric Pol 26: 945–949, 1974.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Menichella V: The fate of children of unknown parents born between 1934 and 1971, in the province of Rome.Minerva Pediatr 26: 1945–49, 1974.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Provence S, and Lipton R: Infants in institutions. New York: New York University International Press, 1962.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Nagera H: Day care centers: Red light, green light, amber light.Int Rev Psychoanal 2: 121–137, 1975.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Bowlby J: Grief and mourning in infancy and early childhood.Psychoanal Study Child 15: 679–688, 1960.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Burnstein M, Colman M: The residential treatment of a consciously rejected child: A pshchoanalytic study with social and legal implications.Child Psychiatry Dev 10: 222–231, 1980.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Nagera H: Children's reaction to death of important objects: A developmental approach.Psychoanal Study of Child 25: 288–309, 1953.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Rochlin G: The dread of abandonment: A contribution to the etiology of the loss complex and to depression.Psychoanal Study Child 15: 451–470, 1961.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Childres M: Hyperactive children having behavior disorders.Amer J Orthopsychiatry 5: 227–243, 1935.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Symonds P: A study of parental acceptance and rejection.Amer J Orthopsychiatry 4: 679–688, 1938.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Pemberton DA, Benady DR: Consciously rejected children.Brit J Psychiatry 123: 575–578, 1973.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Newell N: “Psychodynamics of Maternal Rejection.”Amer J Orthopsychiatry 4: 387–401, 1934.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael H. Burnstein
    • 1
  1. 1.Children's Psychiatric Hospital, Department of PsychiatryUniversity of Michigan Medical SchoolAnn Arbor

Personalised recommendations