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Loss of Innocence: Albert Moll, Sigmund Freud and the Invention of Childhood Sexuality around 1900

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Lutz Sauerteig


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This paper analyses how, prior to the work of Sigmund Freud, an understanding of infant and childhood sexuality emerged during the nineteenth century. Key contributors to the debate were Albert Moll, Max Dessoir and others, as fin-de-siècle artists and writers celebrated a sexualised image of the child. By the beginning of the twentieth century, most paediatricians, sexologists, psychologists, psychiatrists, psychoanalysts and pedagogues agreed that sexuality formed part of a child’s ‘normal’ development. This paper argues that the main disagreements in discourses about childhood sexuality related to different interpretations of children’s sexual experiences. On the one hand stood an explanation that argued for a homology between children’s and adults’ sexual experiences, on the other hand was an understanding that suggested that adults and children had distinct and different experiences. Whereas the homological interpretation was favoured by the majority of commentators, including Moll, Freud, and to some extent also by C.G. Jung, the heterological interpretation was supported by a minority, including childhood psychologist Charlotte Bühler.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Sauerteig LDH

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Medical History

Year: 2012

Volume: 56

Issue: 2

Pages: 156-183

Print publication date: 01/06/2012

Online publication date: 01/06/2012

ISSN (print): 0025-7273

ISSN (electronic): 2048-8343

Publisher: Cambridge University Press


DOI: 10.1017/mdh.2011.31


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