Psychoanalysis and the family in twentieth-century France

Françoise Dolto and her legacy

By Richard Bates

Psychoanalysis and the family in twentieth-century France


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-5962-5
  • Pages: 280
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £80.00
  • Published Date: February 2022
  • BIC Category: Modern History, History & Archaeology, PSYCHOLOGY / Movements / Psychoanalysis, MEDICAL / History, HISTORY / Modern / 20th Century, HISTORY / Europe / France, Psychoanalytical Theory (Freudian Psychology), Medicine / History of medicine, Humanities / 20th century history: c 1900 to c 2000, France
  • Series: Studies in Modern French and Francophone History


In the last quarter of the twentieth century, if French people had a parenting problem or dilemma there was one person they consulted above all: Françoise Dolto (1908-88). But who was Dolto? How did she achieve a position of such influence? What ideas did she communicate to the French public? This book connects the story of Dolto's rise to two broader histories: the dramatic growth of psychoanalysis in postwar France and the long-running debate over the family and the proper role of women in society. It shows that Dolto's continued reputation in France as a liberal and enlightened educational thinker is at best only partially deserved and that conservative and anti-feminist ideas often underpinned her prominent public interventions. While Dolto retains the status of a national treasure, her career has had far-reaching and sometimes harmful repercussions for French society, particularly in the treatment of autism.


'Richard Bates's cultural history of the life and work of Françoise Dolto establishes her rightful place at the centre of the psychoanalytic revolution in twentieth-century France, stressing her significant influence on the broader popularity of psychoanalysis and the manner that French parents navigated social transformations after the Second World War. A must-read to understand the intersection of gender, family and disability in French psychoanalysis.'
Jonathyne Briggs, Professor of History, Indiana University Northwest


Introduction: Doltomania
1 Family neuroses: psychoanalysis in interwar France
2 Dutiful daughters: Françoise breaks free?
3 Humanism, holism and guilt: Dolto, psychoanalysis and Catholicism from Occupation to Liberation
4 Family politics: popularising psychoanalysis, 1945-68
5 Autism, antipsychiatry and the pathogenic family: Dolto and the psychoanalytic approach to autism in France
6 Radio star: psychoanalysis in the public sphere, 1968-88


Richard Bates is a Teaching Associate in History at the University of Nottingham

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