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Looking at Childhood from Past Times until the Post-Modern World

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Rimas de Berço, Paula Rego - Editores Relógio D'Água Nov. 2001In mediaeval Europe and up to the middle of the 12th century, no thoughts were given to children. Children did not occupy a defined space in society. According to Áries (1978), children were portrayed like miniature adults. Kramer (1995) affirms that the idea of childhood has not always been the same through times. This concept emerged with capitalist societies, with the change of the child’s social role and corresponding integration in society. This confirms the research carried out by French historian Philippe Áries, which points to the late appearance of the feeling of childhood, of the perception that children and adults are distinct. The concept of childhood is historically determined alongside the changes and transmutations societies go through, for which reason it is not possible to think about children without taking into account the social and historical context they form part of.

The school is an institution that dates from the 15th century (Áries, 1978), and, thanks to it, the importance given to children started to change. With the institutionalization of education – although it continued to be centred on the Church and only served a small elite – a new stage in childhood emerged. Children ceased to play the role of court jester, and to exist for the entertainment of adults, and started to inspire responsibility for education and morals. The success of the institution allowed children to prolong their childhood period, given that until then, they were required to work from an early age and to undergo early psychical development, where there was no room to think about children.

Nowadays, we notice a migration of the focus of the patriarchal family onto the child. Modern families, unlike medieval ones, shape their priorities according to the wills and wishes of childhood. This is due either to the weakening of the patriarchal family, or to the strengthening of the role of children. While in the Middle Ages children were miniature adults, due to the clothes they wore and to the fact their maturity was brought forward, as they did not occupy a specific and considered space within the family, nowadays, we find that children dominate their own space in the family, but, nevertheless, are forced to come into adulthood earlier, which is a consequence not only of that conquered space but also of the development of the post-modern world.

Today’s world is distinct from the medieval one, and produces children who are aware of their function and role, and are often alone when making decisions on an everyday basis. However, in the same way children were dressed as adults centuries ago, nowadays children have increasingly more information, although they do not yet possess a well developed psychological space to store so much information. This phenomenon shows that, once more, the space allocated to childhood is getting smaller, while adolescence is expanding. Therefore, the world of childhood is growing according to social models that manifest themselves through exacerbated consuming, a product of neoliberalism and globalization, which portray post-modern western societies, driven by the market, consumption, and competition, which educational and systems policies are part of, resulting in the educational contexts and practices currently in force. For this reason, children from post-modern societies become more complex human beings, and are no longer the symbol of innocence and of the future. They grow amidst growing structural transformations, spanning from home to school, which invites us to think of them as social institutions undergoing change. Rimas de Berço, Paula Rego - Editores Relógio D'Água Nov. 2001

We started to have competitive educational policies that determine the selectivity of educational systems, where the academically privileged are always to be found among the socially privileged (Correia, 1994). We have an education system that is predominately guided by profit, which is a result of neoliberal politics. As a consequence of the market economy, the current educational situation depicts phenomena of social exclusion, increasing inequality between social classes, and school underperformance and drop out, as a result of the former. Low literacy and educational levels, and serious problems in terms of lack of discipline point to more serious psychopathological situations. As a consequence of mass education, the population has become increasingly more homogeneous, and currently schools do not have the capacity to address students’ individual educational and psychological needs. Current pedagogical organisation and the elaboration of educational contents started in the 16th century with colleges – Jesuits. Only members of the nobility, the elite, had access to them, and the school, selective as ever, was devised for homogeneous population niches only.

According to Zimerman (2000), the deep transformations that post-modern societies have been going through the last decades, at the level of science, religion, philosophy, art, ethics, sexuality, culture, politics and socio-economic conditions, and all these bio-psycho-socio-economic-cultural changes make us, educators and mental health technicians, look, in a different, reflective manner, at the psychological development of children and adults. The development and transmutation of societies lead to the appearance of behaviours and psychic structures that are distinct from those that existed one hundred years ago, when Freud came up with psychoanalysis. According to Zimerman (2000), the essence of the post-modern period is the progressive introduction of images, visual perception, which occupy the place of thoughts and words. Therefore, for this author, thoughts give way to a culture of narcissism, where a conflict between the “ideal Ego” and the “real Ego” lies. In other words, the worth of human beings is now determined by what they have or appear to have. The capacity for thinking, learning, tolerating, and the love for the truth gave way to omnipotence, omniscience, arrogance and confusion between what is true and what is false. As a consequence, today’s people are largely characterised by their fight for psychic survival, and this translated into the rising number of people coming to our clinic denoting emotional deficiencies, lapses and inner black holes, suffering from pathologies of emptiness that manifest themselves through psychotic symptoms, psychopathies, perversions, drug-addiction, personality disturbances and deviant behaviours in a unstoppable quest for recognition, for a space, a place inside the other.

This drift in terms of continence, aligned to a precocious emancipation from the world, where competition is increasingly ferocious, leads to a profound state of neglect, which, in turn, fosters rising urban violence, a quest for identity, a search for a place in a society that makes us feel there is no space left for others. It must be pointed out that transformations in culture and society encompass new characteristics about the distinct psychopathological configurations of individuals and groups. Nowadays, and as consequence of social changes, we come across much more than just patients who bear conflicts centred on the struggle between forbidden pulsions and defence mechanisms. Quite the opposite, we see a rising number of depressive pathologies, narcissist, of false self, psychosomatic structures and food disorders, given that “pathologies of emptiness” account for an early failure in terms of capacity for maternal countenance, which lead to the so-called “black holes” in children’ minds (Zirmerman, 2000).

Rimas de Berço, Paula Rego - Editores Relógio D'Água Nov. 2001
The final goal of people’s psychological development is the acquisition of identity. After going through all stages of psychological development, children reach conditions for maturity and development, which enable a gradual differentiation, until reaching a position where constancy of objectives and self-cohesion become possible and which, in turn, enable the development of their identity, autonomy, authenticity, and individuality.  As such, it is necessary that adults develop an ethical procedure with children, which translates into a baby’s right to be wanted by both parents, the right to have a mother who is available and a father who is present, and the right to a physical and psychic space where there is respect for the needs and emotional and psychological experiences of the child. In exchange, parental figures started to act as the child’s pathological agents.

It is necessary that the school and the family become one, and areas for education, sociability, participation, cooperation, and creativity, where children learn out of the pleasure of learning, learn out of existing ties. It is necessary that the whole learning process is achieved through emotional experience and curiosity about the surrounding world.

Alexandra Sofia Santos Silva
Faculty of Medicine of the University of Lisbon
santossilva.alexandra@gmail.com

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Bibliography

Ariés, P.(1978). A historia social da criança e família. Rio de Janeiro: Guanabara.
Correia, J. A. (1994). A educação em Portugal no limiar do sec. XXI: Perspectivas de desenvolvimento futuro, in Educação Sociedade & Culturas, nº. 2, 7-30.
Ferreira, T. (2002). Em defesa da criança – teoria e prática psicanalítica da infância. Lisboa: Assírio & Alvim.
Freud, A. (1989). Textos Essenciais da Psicanálise – II A teoria da sexualidade. Lisboa. Publicações Europa – América.
Zimerman, D. (2000). Fundamentos básicos das grupoterapias. Porto Alegre: Artmed Editora S.A.

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In mediaeval Europe and up to the middle of the 12th century, no thoughts were given to children. Children did not occupy a defined space in society. According to Áries (1978), children were portrayed like miniature adults. Kramer (1995) affirms that the idea of childhood has not always been the same through times. This concept emerged with capitalist societies, with the change of the child’s social role and corresponding integration in society. This confirms the research carried out by French historian Philippe Áries, which points to the late appearance of the feeling of childhood, of the perception that children and […]

CGC Professor Amândio Tavares FWA Prize – Applications until 15th April

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In 2006 the CGC – Centre for Clinical Genetics, the first private medical genetics laboratory in Portugal, and which is undergoing international expansion, created a prize as an incentive for innovation in the application of clinical genetics tests.

This is a prize that aims at highlighting and awarding prizes to works, whether individual or institutional, that have contributed towards the implementation of new clinical genetics tests in clinical practice in the Iberian Peninsula.

The public recognition granted to the award-winners aims not only at granting a prize to the best research works with clinical application in the field of clinical genetics in the Iberian Peninsula, but also to motivate and highlight examples to be followed in the future.

Applications to the CGC Professor Amândio Tavares FWA Prizes 2009/2010 are open”.

Consult the Regulations (Updated to 16/12/2009)

Agenda:
Closing date for presenting works is the 15th of April 2010.
The prize will be presented after April 2010, on a date to be announced

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In 2006 the CGC – Centre for Clinical Genetics, the first private medical genetics laboratory in Portugal, and which is undergoing international expansion, created a prize as an incentive for innovation in the application of clinical genetics tests. This is a prize that aims at highlighting and awarding prizes to works, whether individual or institutional, that have contributed towards the implementation of new clinical genetics tests in clinical practice in the Iberian Peninsula. The public recognition granted to the award-winners aims not only at granting a prize to the best research works with clinical application in the field of clinical […]

Medicine Night 2009

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The Medicine Night was evening of fun, with inside out outfits, in the Students’ Room.

Then it moved on to the Chancellery Aula Magna, now with better technology and more whimsical.

Now it is held in the mythical Coliseu Theatre, and deserves its place there!

The spirit of this student party, in which the main aim is fun, satire and irreverence, has (fortunately!) remained, but the show itself has taken on levels of quality that are sometimes surprising, bearing in mind that it is entirely conceived, rehearsed, set and staged between hours of classes, studying, training periods, preparing posters, presentations and assessment…

The organization and financing of the Medicine Night belong to the Students’ Association.

The structure of the show is defined by the 6th year, which “owns” the party, around a central theme – this year with the format of a TV contest, “Who Wants to be a Doctor” – with performances on stage, live music and dancing, and sketches shown on video on giant screens. Each curricular year brings its own contribution (except for the 1st year), as well as the University of Madeira (who have “infiltrated since 2004”) and the other degree courses.

Something has been changing over recent years: the Medicine Night “has come out of its shell”, it no longer goes unnoticed, has now become an event to be reckoned with in the life of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Lisbon (FMUL) and attracts spectators beyond the students and their families: teachers, support staff and former students all come together year after year in this joyful evening in October when one starts to feel the enjoyment of observing, applauding and even participating, connecting generations and strata in a pleasant evening of fun.

And what is the result of all this? A great evening show, with hilarious moments in which students poke fun at the difficulties of the course, the teachers’ performances, the gaps in the programmes, the lack of resources and space, the way the services work and, mainly, themselves!

It is an irreverent and lively adult show, something like a Portuguese Review show, slightly spicy, and with collages and caricatures, with surprising and very funny moments in which we recognise the places, the cars (!) and the people. Unexpected talents and hidden beauties are revealed: comedians and chorus girls emerge from inside the shapes we have become used to seeing being extremely concentrated in the amphitheatres and libraries. The students perform, sing, play music, dance and show how creativity, art and good humour “survive” the demands of science very well. Which is good, very good, for these young people to become adults/doctors maintaining capacities for healthy relationships, in a positive attitude in relation to the difficulties of the profession, without frustrations over a “lost youth” spent studying.

The Medicine Night is the moment when the students express their likings and their criticisms, their disenchantments and their complicities, the best and the worst aspects of their academic lives, of which we are all a part.

Along with other events run by the students, such as “Freshmen Fashion” or the “Cultural Evening”, these are important moments in the life of our faculty, because they are contributions towards cohesion and optimism, impulses for the institution to continue to evolve in the spirit of the Bologna Process, for a teaching practice that is more and more centred on the student, with high scientific and pedagogical demands, and a facilitating role in access to knowledge of medicine, the mission we all have.

These are occasions when the emotional bonds that attach us to the students are tightened, moments when teachers and non-teachers can grant greater value to the sense of responsibility for these young lives that spend six unforgettable years with us and who will become our doctors and those of our children.

Mané

 

M Manuela Loureiro Nunes
Secretariat of the Institute of Introduction to Medicine
Telephone: 21 798 51 75 | Internal Extension: 44543
e-mail: ajuda@fm.ul.pt

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The Medicine Night was evening of fun, with inside out outfits, in the Students’ Room. Then it moved on to the Chancellery Aula Magna, now with better technology and more whimsical. Now it is held in the mythical Coliseu Theatre, and deserves its place there! The spirit of this student party, in which the main aim is fun, satire and irreverence, has (fortunately!) remained, but the show itself has taken on levels of quality that are sometimes surprising, bearing in mind that it is entirely conceived, rehearsed, set and staged between hours of classes, studying, training periods, preparing posters, presentations […]