Inventing the "normal' child: psychology, delinquency, and the promise of early intervention
journal contributionposted on 2021-02-02, 02:29 authored by Katie WrightKatie Wright
© 2017, © The Author(s) 2017. Constructions of normality and abnormality in discussions of young people changed considerably in the early to mid-twentieth century in many parts of the world, including Australia. The perennial trope of youth as a threat assumed a distinctly new form in this era, as the troubled and troublesome child, the incipient and confirmed delinquent, was reconfigured through emerging knowledges of the human sciences. Exploring the effects of new concerns with the ‘normal’, this article begins by examining the construct of normalcy and its interdependency with notions of the ‘abnormal’, particularly juvenile delinquency, as the antithesis of personal and social adjustment. Yet the discursive strategies that saw delinquency, at one level, recognized as a complex and multi-causal problem also construed it as amenable to clinical solutions, notably psychological intervention. The article explores how emergent ideas of the importance of early intervention created divisions between three groups of youthful populations: the ‘normal child’ deemed well adjusted, the ‘problem child’ thought to be responsive to adjustive measures, and the ‘confirmed delinquent’, whose behaviour was considered intractable and was thus unlikely to attain the socially desired status of normalcy.