In 1943, child psychiatrist Leo Kanner in the US gave the first account of Early Infantile Autism that encouraged psychiatrists to investigate what they called emotionally cold mothers, or refrigerator mothers. In 1949, Kanner published Problems of Nosology and Psychodynamics of Early Infantile Autism. In that article, Kanner described autistic children as reared in emotional refrigerators. US child psychiatrists claimed that some psychological or behavioral conditions might have origins in emotional or mental stress, meaning that they might be psychogenic. Kanner described autism's cause in terms of emotional refrigeration from parents into the early 1960s, often attributing autism to the lack of parental warmth. In the 1960s, Bernard Rimland in the US and Bruno Bettelheim in Austria disagreed on the role of psychogenesis in autism. Rimland suggested that autism's cause was rooted in neurological development, while Bettelheim continued to emphasize the role of nurturing during early childhood. Nevertheless, many mothers reported that they felt a deep sense of anguish and resentment toward child psychiatrists who often made them feel as if they were to blame for their children's autism.

Hans Asperger studied mental abnormalities in children in Vienna, Austria, in the early twentieth century. Asperger was one of the early researchers who studied the syndrome that was later named after him, Asperger's Syndrome. Asperger described the syndrome in his 1944 publication Die Autistischen Psychopathen im Kindesalter (Autistic Psychopathy in Childhood). At that time, the syndrome was called autistic psychopathy, and Asperger noted that characteristics of the syndrome included lack of sympathy, one-sided conversations, and difficulty forming friendships. Asperger's work led to the recognition of Asperger's Syndrome as a disorder that results from abnormal development, and the syndrome was later classed on the autism spectrum.

In 2012 Ann S. Masten and Angela J. Narayan published the article “Child Development in the Context of Disaster, War, and Terrorism: Pathways of Risk and Resilience” in Annual Reviews in Psychology. The authors conducted their study at the Institute of Child Development at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In the article, Masten and Narayan review a number of articles to examine and compile the research made since the twenty-first century on the psychological impact of mass trauma, such as war, terrorism, and disasters, on children. The goal was not only to highlight all current research but also delineate any patterns and inconsistencies between the works, and present the utility of that research. Masten and Narayan found that as of 2011, there is a scarcity of research on long-term studies guiding practices to mitigate distress in children before and after disasters beginning as early as prenatal development.

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