FOR YOUR OWN GOOD: Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing and the Roots of Violence by Alice Miller

FOR YOUR OWN GOOD: Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing and the Roots of Violence

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A smoothly presented psychoanalytic exploration of those child-rearing practices which beget adult violence, written in crisp sentences with enlarging anecdotes much like the well-received Prisoners of Childhood (1981). Before Miller looks closely at the childhoods of three subjects, she outlines ""poisonous pedagogy""--parental practices which seem in the child's interest, but which actually subvert a child's well-being and full emotional development. ""The greatest cruelty that can be inflicted on children is to refuse to let them express their anger and suffering except at the risk of losing their parents' love and affection,"" she maintains, providing numerous examples of both well-meaning and badly misguided parents. Miller then discusses what happens when childhood emotions are routinely repressed or denied by examining the early years of three well-known Germans--a drug addict, a sex offender/child murderer, and Adolf Hitler--and finds in their harsh beginnings the roots of destructive and self-destructive adult behaviors. Children who undergo such severe emotional conditioning tend as adults to repeat these patterns (especially without the mediation of psychoanalysis), and Miller's three subjects represent the very worst outcome: the addict endlessly manipulating states of feeling, the sex offender turning himself from victim to victimizer, Hitler (aided by others from similarly abusive homes) transmuting his feelings of persecution into national policy. ""The way we were treated as small children is the way we treat ourselves the rest of our lives,"" she suggests most persuasively. Miller's observations caused quite a stir upon publication in German; American readers, more familiar with varieties of emotional impoverishment and abuse, will find them less unusual and also less applicable to American circumstances than Miller's observations on the gifted in Prisoners of Childhood.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1983
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux