chapter  1
21 Pages

Perversion in Childhood and Adolescence

On the psychic side there is even less doubt of the liability of children to experience emotions which may fairly be called sexual than there is on the physical side. Many years ago Sanford Bell showed, on a collective basis, the frequency of these manifestations, which all have had occasion to observe sometimes. His report (published in the American Journal of Psychology in 1902) may still be read with profit. He had studied the question for fifteen years, both in and out of schools, and personally observed 800 cases, while he had obtained records of 1,700 other cases (thus 2,500 in all) from 360 others, observers of whom only five could recall no experiences of that kind from their own childhood, a fact which indicates that it is a mistake to suppose that repression of such early experiences is common; when it occurs it is evidently abnormal and probably due to inborn peculiarities. Bell found that emotion of this kind may be witnessed as early as the middle of the third year, and that in the nature of its manifestations there tend to be several stages of which the first usually lasts to the age of eight, and the second to the age of fourteen. In the first stage the boy is usually more modest and less aggressive than the girl. The emotion is detected by a number of little signs which it is difficult to avoid assigning to a sex origin. A tendency to hug or kiss is common but does not always occur, and there is frequently a desire to conceal the emotion from its object and from every one else. While some form of touch contact is frequently sought it is not generally specifically sexual, and when it is so Bell was inclined to regard the case as precocious. The erethism, as he well remarks, is not usually (though it may be) manifested in the sex organs, but it is distributed throughout the entire body, especially the vascular and nervous systems. Spring is the period of the year when these manifestations are most likely to occur.