Psychiatrisierte Kindheit – Expansive Kulturen der Krankheit

Machtvolle Allianzen zwischen Psychiatrie und Fürsorgeerziehung


  • Michaela Ralser Institut für Erziehungswissenschaft der Universität Innsbruck



Child psychiatry, invention of “infantility”, corrective training, bio-politics, modern youth welfare, medicalised curative education, epistemic violence, psychoeducation of children, underprivileged classes


By the end of the 19th century, the discipline of psychiatry which, at that time, was gaining academic standing, developed an interest in children and childhood. With the establishment of psychiatric university hospitals, its power to provide interpretations accepted by society significantly extended. This paper uses the patient files of the Psychiatric Hospital Hall in Tirol, Austria, (established in 1830) and of Neurological/Psychiatric Hospital Innsbruck, Austria, (established in 1891) to demonstrate how at around 1900 and as the result of new diagnosis schemes (related to the concepts of degeneration, social- and racial hygiene), the medicalisation and psychiatrisation of childhood came into being and the prospering discipline of psychiatry advanced into the role of an educational adviser. Mainly children of working class and peasant farmer backgrounds were the targets of the defectological view of psychiatric and, as the result, special education insights based on the clinical concepts of “social deviance” und “psychopathological inferiority”. The psychiatric prerogative of interpretation with, by then, also psychoeductional claim seized the field of early social pedagogics: Psychiatry developed into the guiding science for corrective training and residential care. The start of regional child psychiatry in 1945 was characterised by an almost seamless continuity with the Nazi era, including continuity of personnel. The files of the later Innsbruck Child Observation Ward (Innsbrucker Kinderbeobachtungsstation, 1954–1979) headed by the hereditary biology and social background theory-guided psychiatrist and curative pedagogue Nowak-Vogl reveal the efficient symbiosis of child psychiatry, corrective training and youth welfare authorities, with serious consequences for the children and adolescents admitted to these institutions.



Ralser, M. (2014). Psychiatrisierte Kindheit – Expansive Kulturen der Krankheit: Machtvolle Allianzen zwischen Psychiatrie und Fürsorgeerziehung. Österreichische Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaften, 25(1-2), 128–155.