Mary Hannity, 2 February 2023
We might wonder to what extent the unbearable anxieties of adults in the aftermath of war were being projected onto the nation’s children. Implied in the 20th-century turn to the child is a wish on the part of adults to break with the traumatic recent past. At the same time, the destructive impulses of families and cultures are lodged in their children. Susan Isaacs, a Lancashire-born psychoanalyst and progressive educationalist, encouraged faith in psychoanalysis as a utopian educational tool, but she also acted as a container for parents’ anxieties about their own futures. Adults, too, have nightmares. In late 1929, one father wrote to Nursery World to ask how children could be taught to be ‘leaders rather than followers’: was it really, or only, children he was thinking of?