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EVALUATION OF EMOTIONAL DISTURBANCE IN 403 ISRAELI KIBBUTZ CHILDREN
MORDECAI KAFFMAN
Am J Psychiatry 1961;117:732-738.
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Psychiatric Consultant, Child Guidance Center of the Kibbutzim, Oranim, Kiriat Amal, Israel.

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Abstract

The Kibbutz has produced a method of upbringing planned to fit its interests, needs and goals. The most significant differences between the Kibbutz system of education and the traditional Western family can be set down under three headings : the transfer of several parental functions to other adult figures; the importance of the peer group for the Kibbutz children; and the similarity of roles assumed by father and mother in the child-parent relationship.The child is raised in a rather stable peer group whose importance for the child steadily increases from the second year of life on. The process of socialization is mainly achieved through this very early and constant group interaction, with the nurse assuming the role of socializer.The father in the Kibbutz usually spends more time with his children than in the traditional Western family. Beginning with the second year of life the father is with his children for the same period of time as the mother using this time in most of the cases to be a playmate. The usual sex distinction between the role of provider and caretaker does not exist in the Kibbutz. Despite these striking qualitative differences in their upbringing, the Kibbutz children seem to fit into the normal range of behavior pattern.A study was designed to explore the frequency and intensity of a wide range of behavior problems within the total population of 403 children aged 1 to 12 years in three different Kibbutzim. No evidence was found of unusual percentage of behavior problems attributable to emotional deprivation. With regard to frequency and intensity of most of the symptoms the findings seem either to match the usual figures in "normal controls" or even appeared less prominently. This was observed in relation to symptoms like aggression, temper tantrum, breathholding attacks, enuresis, rhythmic motor habits, speech problems, nailbiting, and night fears. A very peculiar difference is the inverted ratio between thumbsucking and eating problems. Kibbutz children at different age levels had 3 times more thumbsucking and about 3 times less eating problems than "normal control groups." No significant differences were found with regard to additional behavior problems between 108 thumbsuckers and 225 Kibbutz children who did not present the symptom. The apparent explanation for the high incidence of thumbsucking, in addition to the early weaning of the Kibbutz infants, seems to be the very permissive approach to the symptom. The low frequency of eating problems and psychogenic vomiting reflects most likely the fact that the feeding functions and training is in charge of the nurse instead of the mother from the end of the first year of life.In the Kibbutz, as in the traditional family, the parents constitute the most important figure in the child's life. Deviational behavior of Kibbutz children–with exclusion of constitutional factors–is due in the great majority of cases to a disturbed child-parent relationship.Rich opportunities for research in normal child development are provided by the kibbutz system of education, and as Bowlby (1) has stressed..."it is to be hoped these will not be missed."

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