Paragraphs on Health and Psychology!
Health is a major neglected topic in psychology, of pervasive importance. It should be obvious that a child who has defective and uncorrected vision or is deaf, malnourished, or ill cannot carry on his school work effectively.
But other and less recognized results of handicap or ill health are often far more serious.
Physical defect of illness is likely to affect energy and temperament; the child thus burdened may be apathetic or irritable and emotionally unstable. Many disciplinary problems are really health problems. Long time effects upon personality, often determining the entire course of the individual’s life, may result from childhood sickness or handicap.
A crippled or underdeveloped or half-sick or blur- visioned youngster cannot participate in play on equal terms with normal children. Social isolation and feelings of inferiority may thus begin, and grow. At home a handicapped or sickly child may be indulged and become habitually dependent, or he may be presented as a burden and develop feelings of inferiority or bitterness.
At school this same child may suffer from too much sympathy, from neglect, or even from unmistakable hostility (the handicapped youngster is often unattractive in both person and personality). And the teacher has the problem not only of her relations with the child but also of other children’s relations with him, which may be similarly various.
At adolescence all such problems may be intensified. The handicapped or sickly youngster may not be attractive to the other sex. Even minor defects or blemishes may become a matter of acute distress to a shy teenage boy or girl trying to find his or her place in “heterosexual” society. It may well be claimed that the most serious consequences and the most difficult problems presented by physical defect or disease are usually not medical but psychological! Moreover, a later chapter will point out that sundry physical indispositions and illnesses are largely psychological in origin—the products of emotional strain and frustration.
Further, problems of physical defect and illness cannot be put to one side as involving only a few unfortunates. Careful estimates indicate that less than one-third of school children are free from physical defect (aside from one or two decayed teeth); one-third have minor physical difficulties, and the remaining third are seriously handicapped by ill health or defect of some sort .
Each year about half the children in the average school have at least a minor illness . These problems occur in every classroom. They are in the background of many of the most persistent and puzzling difficulties of disinterest, discipline, and personality development faced by every teacher.
A brief survey of the health problems of childhood and adolescence, with special reference to psychological relationships, is thus called for, if educational psychology is adequately to cover the problems of learning and development of ability and personality with which modern education is concerned.