Psychoanalysis and child-rearing in twentieth-century France: the career of Françoise Dolto

Bates, Richard (2017) Psychoanalysis and child-rearing in twentieth-century France: the career of Françoise Dolto. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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This thesis is a critical introduction to the ideas and public influence of French child psychoanalyst Françoise Dolto (1908-88). In the late twentieth century Dolto was a figure of significant cultural importance in France, seen as the country’s leading authority on child psychology. The thesis approaches her career from the perspective of social and cultural history. It historicises Dolto’s resonance with wider French society, explains the intellectual genealogy of her ideas, and explores the societal implications of her fame. It constitutes a substantial contribution both to the history of psychoanalysis ‘beyond the couch’, and to the socio-cultural history of twentieth-century France.

The thesis covers a relatively long historical period, and a wide range of topics including child-rearing, education, autism, radical psychiatry and broadcasting history. This span is justified by the length and breadth of Dolto’s career and by the consistency in her ideas over time. The thesis contends that fundamental tenets of Dolto’s thinking were rooted in the intellectual and political climate of interwar France – specifically debates over the social roles of women, children and the family in the 1930s. Dolto’s stances were ‘permissive’ in that they opposed intransigent authoritarianism in child-rearing, education and religion; and patriarchal in that Dolto upheld paternal primacy and familles nombreuses, and often argued against extending women’s rights.

The thesis proceeds in two parts. Part I, ‘Becoming Dolto’, focuses on the intellectual, personal and historical background to her emergence as a public

figure. It situates Dolto as a product of the interwar haute bourgeoisie and of intellectual trends towards holism and technocracy associated with the anti-Republican Right of the 1930s-1940s. Part II, ‘Taking Psychoanalysis Public’, explores the settings in which Dolto popularised her ideas and her impact on popular opinion and state institutions. It mines the archive of letters to Dolto’s radio programmes to show how her ideas interacted with the concerns of the 1970s French public. It demonstrates her impact on contemporary children’s

centres and on the treatment of autism in France into the twenty-first century.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Adler, Karen
Heywood, Colin
Keywords: Twentieth-Century French History History of psychoanalysis and child psychology in France Autism, child-rearing, social history of the family and of women
Subjects: D History - General and Old World > DC France
H Social sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Arts > School of History
Item ID: 45068
Depositing User: Bates, Richard
Date Deposited: 25 Apr 2018 08:46
Last Modified: 25 Apr 2018 08:53

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