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January 1958

Conversion Hysteria in Childhood

Author Affiliations

Tenafly, N. J.
From the Pediatric Service of the North Carolina Baptist Hospital and the Department of Pediatrics of the Bowman Gray School of Medicine of Wake Forest College, Winston-Salem, N. C. Markle Scholar in Medical Science.

AMA Am J Dis Child. 1958;95(1):42-45. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1958.02060050044007

The frequency of conversion hysteria in children is impossible to estimate accurately, as the variability in the use of the diagnostic criteria is marked. It is, however, a rare condition. It is the feeling of the staff of the North Carolina Baptist Hospital Pediatric Service that the number of cases seen here is greater than that expected on the basis of the experience at other institutions.

One of the possible explanations for this apparently higher incidence is the predominantly rural culture of the referral area of this hospital. This area, in spite of the rather recent increase in industry, is still one of the last truly rural cultures in the nation. Families live in isolation or semiisolation, with a strong patriarchal control. Folklore and superstition are integral and powerful parts of the culture. Modern agricultural methods are not as yet widespread. Sanitation, nutrition, education, and sophistication are still lacking, at

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