Mical Raz, Deprived of touch: How maternal and sensory deprivation theory converged in shaping early debates over autism.
In 1943, a distinguished child psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins University, Leo Kanner, published what would become a landmark article: a description of 11 children who suffered from a distinct disorder he called ‘infantile autism’. While initially quite obscure, in the early 1950s Kanner’s report garnered much attention, as clinicians and researchers interpreted these case studies as exemplifying the ill-effects of maternal deprivation, a new theory that rapidly gained currency in the United States. Sensory deprivation experiments, performed in the mid-1950s, further complicated the picture, as experts debated whether maternal deprivation was unique or simply a form of environmental stimulation. As experts strove to make sense of this new disorder, they relied on concepts of maternal and sensory deprivation, both to promote their own theories and to critique or refute those of their colleagues. This interplay between the two theories also informed new forms of intervention, including ‘rage reduction therapy’, which served as a precursor for controversial forms of therapy today termed as the ‘attachment therapies’. This article sheds light on a little-known aspect of the history of autism, and examines the far-reaching effect popular etiological theories have in shaping debates over emerging medical concerns.
David Pilgrim, Historical resonances of the DSM-5 dispute: American exceptionalism or Eurocentrism?
This article begins with arguments evident at the time of writing about the 5th revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association. The historical lineages of those arguments are international and not limited to the USA (the current focus in the DSM-5 controversy). The concern with psychiatric diagnosis both internationally and in the USA came to the fore at the end of the Second World War with the construction of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-I) and the World Health Organization’s classification of ‘Diseases, Injuries and Causes of Death’ (ICD-6). However, the linkage between categories of morbidity, assumptions about natural biological categories and treatment specificity with ‘magic bullets’ emerged in the middle of the 19th century in physical medicine. This article explores the legitimacy of current psychiatric diagnoses in the light of that international, not national, history of medical knowledge. In conclusion it explores judgements about current cultural imperialism (at times made about US psychiatry) and an older picture of Eurocentrism, which is now being refracted in more recent globalizing knowledge-claims about mental disorder.