By Matthew Smith
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Additional resources for Hyperactivity : a History of ADHD
This child did not emerge from a medical case study or an educational treatise, but instead in the form of a ﬁctional character from a nursery rhyme. Fidgety Philip . . ’ See the naughty, restless child Growing still more rude and wild, Till his chair falls over quite. Philip screams with all his might, Catches at the cloth, but then That makes matters worse again. Down upon the ground they fall, Glasses, plates, knives, forks, and all. How Mamma did fret and frown, When she saw them tumbling down!
28 Rather than condemning, let alone pathologizing, such behaviour, Higonnet argues that ‘Hoﬀman’s medical experience and therapeutic experience strongly suggests that Struwwelpeter should be read . . 30 Although Fidgety Philip avoids punishment for his behaviour, some of the other children are less fortunate. Harriet’s dalliances with matches see her being burnt to a pile of ashes, Little Suck-aThumb ends up having his thumbs cut oﬀ by a rather draconian tailor and Cruel Frederick, who takes pleasure in hurting animals, suﬀers a topsy-turvy reversal of fortune.
Although mere speculation, it could be that Still idealized young children, and especially girls, seeing them as particularly innocent and precious. Perhaps when their behaviour strayed from what he saw as normal, becoming passionate, spiteful and shameful, he interpreted this as being pathological when others might perceive it as variations of what was normally expected in children. Again, such comments are speculative, but they do raise the importance of context in assessing historical descriptions of behavioural phenomena.