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A Brief History of the Theory of Birth Trauma in Adults and Children

¬© 1998-2017  Shirley A Ward Med DipEd


In the mid 1970s and early 1980s it was time for the children to be considered - if birth trauma affects adults, what's the odds that children are also affected and need help. A great deal of research has gone into finding evidence for the full range of infant capabilities, whether from personal reports contributed by parents, revelations arising from therapeutic work or from formal experiments. Amongst the most outstanding researchers are Thomas Verny and David Chamberlain, both pioneers in birth Psychology. They founded the Pre and Perinatal Psychology Association of North America ( PPPANA ) in 1983. It is now renamed the Association for Pre and Perinatal Psychology and Health( APPPAH ). They and members of the Association are continuing to research the impacts of pre and perinatal experiences worldwide. In 1981 Thomas Verny, the Canadian psychiatrist, published his best selling book, The Secret Life of the Unborn Child (now in 25 languages) and in it he wrote:- "There is a growing body of empirical studies showing significant relationships between birth trauma and a number of specific difficulties; violence, criminal behaviour, learning disabilities, epilepsy, hyperactivity and child, alcohol and drug abuse." In 1988 David Chamberlain, an American psychologist practicing in San Diego, California, published his groundbreaking book Babies Remember Birth. Also translated into many languages it has now been reprinted and updated under the title The Mind or Your Newborn Baby This extra-ordinary book takes you to the leading edge of scientific and medical research - providing scientific evidence that in the womb fetuses experience a wide variety of emotions; that the random noises newborns make are conscious attempts to communicate; and that cognition and reason in newborns are more highly developed than we previously believed.


Treatment for Birth Traumatised Children


The leading researcher in the world for treatment with birth-traumatised infants and children is Californian psychologist and psychotherapist, Dr William Emerson. He began the development and research for infants and children in 1974. In the autumn of 1976 he visited Frank Lake in England in order to study birth and prenatal phenomena with him. Emerson began to question whether infants and children would benefit from forms of treatment especially developed for them.


A Brief History of the Theory of Birth Trauma


From the 1920s a number of European psychologists and clinicians wrote or researched the effects of pre and perinatal experiences on human growth and development. Various patterns of dysfunctional behaviour were found, relating to prenatal and birth trauma (e.g. Fodor 1949, Peerbolte 1975, Lake 1966, Laing 1977). Some of the first indications that babies are conscious came from the pioneering work of Sigmund Freud and the practice of psychoanalysis going back to the beginning of the century. Freud was skeptical about how the infant mind worked, but client information seemed to link their anxieties and fears to events surrounding their births. Freud theorised that birth might be the original trauma upon which later anxiety was based. When Freud's associate, Otto Rank, wrote The Trauma of Birth in 1923 it was inconceivable that research over the next seventy years would bring such an open window to the hidden world of the womb and substantiate Rank's ideas. As Frank Lake so aptly put it - "The Womb is a Room with a View" . Primal orientated treatment of pre and perinatal experiences with adults was being researched by Frank Lake in England from the late 1960s; in the USA by Arthur Janov (1974) and Leonard Orr (1977) and in the USA and Europe by Stanislav Grof (1975). Frank Lake lectured and introduced his work to Ireland in the later 70s where Alison Hunter ran workshops from 1978, founded Amethyst in 1982 and pioneered Lake's work in Ireland. All of this research and development except for a minimum of exploratory investigation (Mott) 1952) was directed towards adult patients.


©Shirley A Ward 1998