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Child's Negative Attitude Resulting from Malnutrition

Brighter Children

Are Heavier

everyone associated with him suffers because of his condition. Such an infant is rightly considered a sick child, and is treated accordingly. He needs mental treatment in the way of training and control, but this is futile without physical treatment to bring him into a normal state of nutrition.

Unless this malnutrition is promptly removed, further mental effects appear as the child grows older. Instead of a natural reaching out into the various forms of activity that are essential to his well-being, there appears an attitude of defence and a desire to be let alone which are fatal to normal social relationships. The child's interests are narrowed, and his whole attitude becomes negative. Unfortunate personality traits develop, such as selfcenteredness, shyness, lack of confidence, selfishness, jealousy, fearfulness, depression, day-dreaming, and unusual attachments. As the sentiments and emotions develop, the situation grows more and more complex, and it is difficult to separate cause and effect and say how much the child's physical condition affects his mind, or to what degree his mental condition affects his body.

The close parallel existing between physical and mental development was recognized by Bowditch as early as 1891, and the work of later investigators has served to emphasize his conclusions. In 1893, as a result of a study of St. Louis school children, Porter' reported that the brighter children were definitely heavier, and the dull children lighter, than the average child of the same age. A similar observation is made by Baldwin,2 who has summarized with the results of his own researches data gathered by many other investigators both in this country and in Europe in a series of studies extending from 1836 to 1913.

William T. Porter, M. D. "The Physical Basis of Precocity and Dullness," Academy of Science (St. Louis) Transactions, 1893, v. 6, pp. 263-80. "The Growth of St. Louis Children," American Statistical Association, 1894, v. 4 n. s., pp. 28-34.

2 Bird T. Baldwin, "Physical Growth and School Progress," 1914, p. 96 ff.

The following statements from his report are significant as representing a practically unanimous opinion on this subject:1

"Dull children are shorter than precocious children of the same age, or average children." (p. 145.).

"Successful pupils are taller than unsuccessful, and the rate of growth is quicker than in the unsuccessful." (p. 145.)

"Dull children are lighter than precocious children.” (p. 148.)

"The lung capacity was found to be much greater in children whose standing in school is high, and distinctly inferior in a school for laggards." (p. 148.)

"The tall, heavy boys and girls, with good lung capacity are older physiologically, and further along in their stages toward mental maturity, as evidenced by school progress, than are the short, light boys and girls." (p. 96.)

The same correlation between school progress and the nutrition of the child, as represented by the weight-height index, is shown in a more recent study made in Detroit covering 80,662 children, which reports a clear tendency toward an increase in percentage of underweight in proportion to the years of retardation in school work, while an equally consistent trend in the opposite direction accompanies each half-yearly step of acceleration in school work.2

Underweight ation in

and Retard

School Work

Increase in

It has been argued in this connection that these studies merely show that mental superiority accompanies Power physical superiority, without proving that the physically inferior child, if brought up to normal, would show a corresponding improvement in mental development. At the present time, it is true, we cannot say how much

The relation between weight and height is generally accepted as the best single test of physical condition. As the child grows, every advance in inches calls for a corresponding advance in pounds.

Packer and Moehlman, "A Preliminary Study of Standards of Growth in the Detroit Public Schools," Detroit Educational Bulletin, June, 1921, pp. 24-25.

actually increased. It is a change in power to function clusive evidence that the mental power of the child is in the general physical condition, but we do have conimprovement in the brain itself results from improvement

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Weight Retarded-Per Cent


1/2 1 1/2 2 2/2
Years Accelerated

This chart shows the close correlation among Detroit
school children between retardation and acceleration in
school grades, on the one hand, and the weight-height
index, on the other.

rather than an increase in native ability that we look for in bringing about improved nutrition.

Clinically, the physical changes that take place in the malnourished infant or older child as he returns to a normal physical condition are often remarkable, so great that the child can hardly be recognized. The mental transformation that accompanies physical recovery is frequently as great, so that it is a customary comment of parents and teachers,-"He is a different boy. His whole mental attitude has changed. You would not know him."

"Gifted" Children

One of the common fallacies met with in discussions of the relation between mental and physical growth is Healthy due to the tenacity with which we hold to some exceptional case, as, for example, the weak or delicate child who despite physical handicaps has made striking progress in school. That this is not a typical experience, however, is shown by Whipple's1 study of "gifted" children, in which he reports that of 128 students observed, 90 per cent were healthy themselves, and 83 per cent had healthy parents.

During the first year of life, the child's needs may appear to be met by attention to the physical essentials of health, namely, proper food, rest, air, and exercise; yet mental hygiene is also needed even in the first few weeks to ensure both mental and physical growth.

The first requisite is the teaching of obedience. The child's instinctive desires are expressed by crying if he does not immediately get what he wants, and if this method is successful, chaos soon reigns in the home, with the forming of habits that directly interfere with growth. Self-control through obedience is the foundation for all training.

A second need of the child is mothering, or love, which brings with it trust, happiness, and contentment. It is

Guy M. Whipple, "Provision for the Education of Gifted Children in the United States," Mother and Child, September, 1923, Supplement.

Essentials of
for Physical

Ceases after

Health In

spection in

common knowledge that it is undesirable to keep an infant too long in a hospital, however perfect the hygienic conditions may be. Mothering is necessary for growth.

A third factor is regularity, which has to do with habit formation, and gives the child a sense of order and security.

As he grows older, he needs to be taught responsibility, which gives him self-respect and self-confidence.

All these factors in mental training are best brought to bear on the child's development in the environment of a good home, where by the force of example as well as by training, the child develops proper habits of work and play, learns to have consideration for others, and finds out how to adjust himself to parents, servants, neighbors, and other children.

Our greatest accomplishment in child welfare thus far has been in standardizing a program for infant care. This is one of the notable medical achievements of our era, and has resulted in a greatly reduced infant mortality. But when the period of infancy is passed, our record is not so creditable, and the pre-school years have come to be known as the most neglected period of life. In fact, most children pass through the whole growing period without the kind of examination that is needed to determine whether they are developing properly, mentally and physically.

The opportunity afforded for the spread of infection School In- by the massing of great numbers of children in our public adequate schools has led to a certain degree of care with regard to contagious diseases, and we salve our consciences by a formal inspection of children in a hurrying line. But this sort of school examination, with children fully dressed, reveals little about their general nutrition, and anything like a thorough physical examination is almost unknown until the child becomes acutely ill. A beginning has been made in the wider adoption of the practice of weigh

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