HoW: History on Wednesday seminar series – 22 May – School of Humanities HoW: History on Wednesday seminar series – 22 May – School of Humanities

HoW: History on Wednesday seminar series – 22 May

Debbie Doroshow | Yale University

A New Kind of Child: Residential Treatment and the Creation of Emotional Disturbance in Twentieth Century America.

Before the 1940s, children with severe emotional difficulties would have had few options.  If they could not be cared for in the community at a child guidance clinic, they might have been placed in a state mental hospital or asylum, an institution for the so-called “feebleminded,” or a training school for delinquent children.  But starting in the 1930s and 1940s, more specialized institutions began to open all over the country with the goal of treating these children.  Staff members at residential treatment centers (RTCs) shared a commitment to helping children who couldn’t be managed at home.  They adopted an integrated approach to treatment, employing talk therapy, schooling, and other activities in the context of a therapeutic environment.  In the process, they made visible a new kind of person: the emotionally disturbed child.  This is a story about Americans struggling to be normal at a time when being different was dangerous. At RTCs, treating emotional disturbance and building normal children and normal families were inextricably intertwined.  Though normality remained a distant, if unreachable goal for most children in residential treatment, RTC professionals grounded their therapeutic approach within this ideal. The emergence of RTCs to build normal children and the emergence of emotionally disturbed children as a new patient population were thus fundamentally intertwined.

Deborah Doroshow began her studies in the history of medicine at Harvard, where she earned an A.B. in the history of science.  She graduated from Harvard Medical School and received a Ph.D. in the history of medicine from Yale.  Her work on the history of psychiatry and the history of children’s health has appeared in the Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied SciencesIsis, and the Bulletin of the History of Medicine.  Her book, Emotionally Disturbed: Caring For America’s Troubled Children, was published by the University of Chicago Press in April 2019.  She is currently completing her fellowship in adult hematology and oncology at the Yale University School of Medicine, where she frequently lectures and teaches medical students and undergraduates about both oncology and the history of medicine. In August 2019, she will be Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. 


The Department of History hosts a lively departmental research seminar series. Everyone is welcome to attend.

HoW will be held in the Woolley Common Room
Woolley Building A22
Click here for map

2019 HoW Seminar Series convenor:
Michael McDonnell
Click here to email

The Department of History is part of the School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry (SOPHI)

Social Media



May 22 2019


12:10 pm - 1:30 pm


Woolley Common Room
Woolley Building, A22 (Enter via Science Road)



Comments are closed.