Emotional Disturbances in Children Attributed to Lack of Religion

Teamwork between religion and psychiatry for the prevention and the treatment of emotional disturbance in children was called for today by a leading psychoanalyst at a conference of prominent psychiatrists, social workers and rabbis. The conference was held under the auspices of the Commission on Synagogue Relations of the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies.

Dr. Hector Ritey, medical director of the Metropolitan Center of Mental Health, said that the lack of religious knowledge and experience is the “common denominators” that is “the underlying cause” of a wide spectrum of emotional disturbances in children. He stressed that religion, through the process of abstract thought, enables a child to explain the unknown and understand the ties that bind him to mankind. He indicated that the alternative to this “sense of belonging” is “a vacuum” and said that “the role of religious symbols and practices in the family is paramount and irreplaceable.”

Calling religious education “the antagonist of the gap of insecurity, from which emotional disturbances in childhood emanate,” Dr. Ritey said that, despite the opinion of free thinkers, it is “the most free-minded approach to the needs of the youngsters.” He added that religious education teaches the deeper meaning of life, revealing “the teleological meaning of work and of knowledge, its significance in terms of continuity in time, space and depth, and how every human activity branches into a much broader aim than the immediate and practical goal.”

The conference was also addressed by Jack “Adler, chief psychiatric school worker, Hawthorne Cedar Knolls School; Rabbi Jack Bemporad, chaplain, Hawthorne Cedar Knolls School; Mrs. Elizabeth K. Radinsky, associate executive director, Jewish Child Care Association; and Paul Steinfeld, executive director, Pleasantville Cottage School.

Mr. Adler declared that in order for the religious component to become a meaningful and effective aspect of a residential treatment program, “it must be an accepted element of the treatment philosophy, practiced not just professed–by the personnel, and provided with the psychological and physical conditions which will attract children to its aesthetic, intellectual and ethical offerings.”

Rabbi Bemporad stated that the religious program in the treatment of the emotionally disturbed must relate itself to the nature of the child’s problem and background. He noted that there is a basic difference between the attitude of boys and girls toward religion, the former regarding religion as more social and the latter as a personal expression of faith. To Mrs. Radinsky, the religious component is especially important in foster care.

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