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Children in Old Bodies. Age and Ageing in the History of Institutional Psychiatry

Jönsson, Lars-Eric LU (2009) In Ethnologia Europaea 38(2). p.31-44
Abstract
The aim of this paper is to examine what meanings “age” was given when Swedish psychiatric institutions were defining, categorising and caring for their patients from 1850 to 1970. The paper focuses on institutional psychiatry’s perspectives on individuals of advanced age and on the way that these individuals were understood in terms directly or indirectly associated with age. The majority of aged patients were described as irresponsible, unable to provide for themselves, and more or less unaware of the consequences of their actions. Such patients were regarded as child-like in their behaviour, and were therefore seen as “children”. The childish person’s development had stopped prematurely, and any improving, i.e. developmental therapies... (More)
The aim of this paper is to examine what meanings “age” was given when Swedish psychiatric institutions were defining, categorising and caring for their patients from 1850 to 1970. The paper focuses on institutional psychiatry’s perspectives on individuals of advanced age and on the way that these individuals were understood in terms directly or indirectly associated with age. The majority of aged patients were described as irresponsible, unable to provide for themselves, and more or less unaware of the consequences of their actions. Such patients were regarded as child-like in their behaviour, and were therefore seen as “children”. The childish person’s development had stopped prematurely, and any improving, i.e. developmental therapies were scarcely to be had. For old people, this child-like stage in life might be reached sooner, or later. No matter: all that remained was a more-or-less steep downhill course marked by confinement in bed, lack of activities, and waiting for the inevitable.



My choice of psychiatry as object of investigation is motivated by its place at the very centre of modern society. In psychiatry we find an explicit focus on the “normal” and “abnormal”: how human beings are meant to behave, how they are supposed to think, and to what moral standards they should conform. The paper analyses and shows the slow change and continuity in the practices of psychiatric care and its everyday perspectives on age during this period. (Less)
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author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
keywords
history, everyday practices, psychiatry, institutions, Age, mental hospitals, ageing
in
Ethnologia Europaea
volume
38
issue
2
pages
31 - 44
publisher
Museum Tusculanum Press
ISSN
0425-4597
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
3afad7d6-09e4-4080-854c-d2563035bdd9 (old id 1299761)
date added to LUP
2009-03-19 13:24:37
date last changed
2016-04-16 00:06:55
@article{3afad7d6-09e4-4080-854c-d2563035bdd9,
  abstract     = {The aim of this paper is to examine what meanings “age” was given when Swedish psychiatric institutions were defining, categorising and caring for their patients from 1850 to 1970. The paper focuses on institutional psychiatry’s perspectives on individuals of advanced age and on the way that these individuals were understood in terms directly or indirectly associated with age. The majority of aged patients were described as irresponsible, unable to provide for themselves, and more or less unaware of the consequences of their actions. Such patients were regarded as child-like in their behaviour, and were therefore seen as “children”. The childish person’s development had stopped prematurely, and any improving, i.e. developmental therapies were scarcely to be had. For old people, this child-like stage in life might be reached sooner, or later. No matter: all that remained was a more-or-less steep downhill course marked by confinement in bed, lack of activities, and waiting for the inevitable.<br/><br>
<br/><br>
My choice of psychiatry as object of investigation is motivated by its place at the very centre of modern society. In psychiatry we find an explicit focus on the “normal” and “abnormal”: how human beings are meant to behave, how they are supposed to think, and to what moral standards they should conform. The paper analyses and shows the slow change and continuity in the practices of psychiatric care and its everyday perspectives on age during this period.},
  author       = {Jönsson, Lars-Eric},
  issn         = {0425-4597},
  keyword      = {history,everyday practices,psychiatry,institutions,Age,mental hospitals,ageing},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {2},
  pages        = {31--44},
  publisher    = {Museum Tusculanum Press},
  series       = {Ethnologia Europaea},
  title        = {Children in Old Bodies. Age and Ageing in the History of Institutional Psychiatry},
  volume       = {38},
  year         = {2009},
}