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March 6, 1954


Author Affiliations

Rochester, Minn.; San Francisco

From the Section of Psychiatry, Mayo Clinic (Dr. Johnson), and the University of California School of Medicine and the Langley Porter Clinic (Dr. Szurek).

JAMA. 1954;154(10):814-817. doi:10.1001/jama.1954.02940440012003

Our thesis is that parents' unwitting sanction or indirect encouragement is a major cause of, and the specific stimulus for, such antisocial behavior as fire-setting, stealing, truancy, and unacceptable sexuality displayed by young delinquents or their adult counterparts, the psychopaths. The delinquencies under consideration are those arising in apparently "normal" families of good reputation and are not those largely determined socio-logically in slum areas or juvenile gangs of any economic level.

The conclusion proposed here has emerged from studies carried out by us during the past decade, and it requires considerable amplification and evidential documentation. Some of the material has been published previously by us.1 By means of study and concomitant treatment of the parents as well as of the child involved in the antisocial behavior, it becomes unmistakably evident that one or occasionally both parents derive unconscious, and less frequently conscious, vicarious gratification of their own poorly integrated

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