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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/523

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bility until it often becomes a fixed habit of mind; an undue sensibility of the supreme centers to emotional ideas is created, which can only be maintained at the expense of sound health of body and of mind. First among these are certain home influences that are brought to bear upon a little girl from her earliest childhood, which foster in her self-consciousness and introspection.

She is generally permitted narrower limits, within which she can play, can dress, can succeed, than are allowed to her brother, even when her physique is equally able. She is housed more closely, her out-of-door sports are fewer and less interesting, and her dress is too often a limitation to her freedom. Such restrictions of her liberty, and constant reference to the fact that her sex denies her this or that employment or pleasure, tend to make a child self-conscious and emotionally overactive. Methods of family discipline which depend upon appeals to the emotional natures of children have like unhealthy results, for they promote a condition of mental commotion and unrest harmful to children, who require an even atmosphere for the mind as well as for the body. There are often undue claims made upon little children for the demonstration of their affections, and this is especially true of girls.

In a paper on "Emotional Prodigality among Children," read before a dental society some years ago by Dr. C. F. Taylor, it was argued that stimulation of the emotions among children conduced not only to diseases of the spine, but also to dental caries.

Dr. Taylor says: "In my large practice among children, I am certain that scores are literally killed by the excessive amount of emotional excitement which they are forced to endure. All this hugging and kissing and talking to them is to excite responses of the same emotional nature in the child for the pleasure and gratification of the parents and friends." And again he says: "I believe that three fifths of the spinal diseases which occur in children are directly traceable to mental overaction. And this because a large proportion of these cases gets well without other treatment than a withdrawal from the exciting cause of emotional disturbance." The writer does not subscribe to this view of the causation of lateral curvature, except in so far as any influence which weakens the body may be a factor in this affection, but the opinion is of interest as suggesting the extent of this and kindred influences.

The literature which little girls are permitted to read may be held responsible for much emotional stimulation of an unhealthy character. If a man be known by the company he keeps, it is equally true that he is known by the books he reads. The last quarter of a century has opened a wide vista of healthful delight for children through the green fields of modern child literature, but the prospect is not yet entirely fair. The hot-house atmosphere prevails in many volumes, which owe their birth to the present decade.