Naturalistic Studies of Disturbed Families

  • E. James Anthony


I sat on the side of a wall and watched him, and the longer I sat the more mystified I became. I wanted to ask questions but I knew it would be unwise to do so. He was a 10-year-old boy, very much inside himself, and from previous interviews I had come to realize that the more I questioned him the further he withdrew. He belonged to one of the earliest families with a psychotic parent that I studied when I was still groping for some glimmer of understanding of the lives of these people. I had come out of the house, which was little better than a hovel, in search of fresh air and had found the boy by the roadside drain making and floating little paper boats that traveled some distance and then disappeared suddenly down a manhole. As he launched them on the water he put bits of gravel on board and appeared to be whispering something to himself. What struck me most was his lack of concern at losing his fleet of paper boats. He seemed to watch them go almost with satisfaction. Eventually my curiosity got the better of me and I asked him very gently what he was sending away. For a while he did not answer and then said, very brusquely, “Dirt”! After a further pause, he added, “I’m sending the bad things away from our house and they’ll never come back. ” I wondered aloud what sort of bad things these were and this time he took longer to respond. Then he said very slowly; “All sorts of bad things like my mom being sick and all.” After this disclosure he fell back into his usual impenetrable seclusiveness and our interview was over for the day.


Living Room Naturalistic Study Outer Rationality Child Guidance Clinic Family Room 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1975

Authors and Affiliations

  • E. James Anthony
    • 1
  1. 1.The Harry Edison Child Development Research CenterWashington University School of MedicineSt. LouisUSA

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