Journal article

Mother-blaming revisited: Gender, cinematography, and infant research in the heyday of psychoanalysis


  • 25.07.2023
Published in:
  • History of the Human Sciences. - SAGE Publications. - 2023
English This article examines cinematographic observational studies of infants conducted by a loosely connected group of female psychologists and physicians in the USA from the 1930s to the 1960s. Largely forgotten today, these practitioners realized detailed and carefully planned research projects about infant behavior in a variety of settings—from the laboratory to the well-baby clinic. Although their studies were in conversation with better-known works, such as John Bowlby’s research on attachment and René Spitz’s films on institutionalized infants, they differed in a close examination of individual characteristics of babies and a critical attitude toward contemporary notions of ‘pathological mothering’. In closely following the work of several researchers, including but not limited to pediatrician Margaret Fries (1898–1987), the clinical psychologist Sibylle Escalona (1915–96) and her team members—child psychiatrist Mary Leitch (1914–?) and avantgarde photographer Ellen Auerbach (1906–2004)—and psychologist Anneliese Korner (1918–2010), I argue that their cinematographic works shed a more nuanced light on the landscape of infant research and child psychiatry in the mid 20th century, and open a way for alternative readings of gender, psychoanalysis, and scientific observation at that time.
Faculté des sciences et de médecine
Médecine 3ème année
  • English
Pathology, clinical medicine
Rights reserved
Open access status
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