By the 1930s and 1940s, parents on both sides of the Atlantic increasingly sought professional help in dealing with children’s emotional difficulties. The earlier normative movement had answered the question, What are children like? Now another question had to be addressed: How and why do children become the way they are? To treat psychological problems, psychiatrists and social workers turned to an emerging approach to personality development that emphasized each child’s unique history.
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The Psychoanalytic Perspective
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According to the psychoanalytic perspective, children move through a series of stages in which they confront conflicts between biological drives and social expectations. How these conflicts are resolved determines the person’s ability to learn, to get along with others, and to cope with anxiety. Among the many contributors to the psychoanalytic perspective, two were especially influential: Sigmund Freud, founder of the psychoanalytic movement, and Erik Erikson.