50 Facts About Bruno Bettelheim


Bruno Bettelheim was an Austrian-born psychologist, scholar, public intellectual and writer who spent most of his academic and clinical career in the United States.


Bruno Bettelheim's ideas, which grew out of those of Sigmund Freud, theorized that children with behavioral and emotional disorders were not born that way, and could be treated through extended psychoanalytic therapy, treatment that rejected the use of psychotropic drugs and shock therapy.


Bruno Bettelheim was born in Vienna, Austria-Hungary, on August 28,1903.


When his father died, Bruno Bettelheim left his studies at the University of Vienna to look after his family's sawmill.


Bruno Bettelheim was arrested some two months later on May 28,1938, and was imprisoned in both these camps for ten and half months before being released on April 14,1939.


Bruno Bettelheim drew on the experience of the concentration camps for some of his later work.


Bruno Bettelheim arrived by ship as a refugee in New York City in late 1939 to join his wife Gina, who had already emigrated.


Bruno Bettelheim soon moved to Chicago, became a naturalized US citizen in 1944, and married an Austrian woman, Gertrude Weinfeld, an emigrant from Vienna.


Once this funding ran out, Bruno Bettelheim found a job at Rockford College, Illinois, where he taught from 1942 to 1944.


Bruno Bettelheim claimed he had interviewed 1,500 fellow prisoners, although this was unlikely.


Bruno Bettelheim stated that the Viennese psychoanalyst Richard Sterba had analyzed him, as well as implying in several of his writings that he had written a PhD dissertation in the philosophy of education.


Bruno Bettelheim held both positions from 1944 until his retirement in 1973.


Bruno Bettelheim wrote a number of books on psychology and, for a time, had an international reputation for his work on Sigmund Freud, psychoanalysis, and emotionally disturbed children.


At the Orthogenic School, Bruno Bettelheim made changes and set up an environment for milieu therapy, in which children could form strong attachments with adults within a structured but caring environment.


Bruno Bettelheim claimed considerable success in treating some of the emotionally disturbed children.


Bruno Bettelheim wrote books on both normal and abnormal child psychology, and became a major influence in the field, widely respected during his lifetime.


Bruno Bettelheim was noted for his study of feral children, who revert to the animal stage without experiencing the benefits of belonging to a community.


Bruno Bettelheim discussed this phenomenon in the book The Informed Heart.


Bruno Bettelheim was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1971.


Bruno Bettelheim analyzed fairy tales in terms of Freudian psychology in The Uses of Enchantment.


Bruno Bettelheim discussed the emotional and symbolic importance of fairy tales for children, including traditional tales once considered too dark, such as those collected and published by the Brothers Grimm.


Bruno Bettelheim suggested that traditional fairy tales, with the darkness of abandonment, death, witches, and injuries, allowed children to grapple with their fears in remote, symbolic terms.


Bruno Bettelheim thought that by engaging with these socially evolved stories, children would go through emotional growth that would better prepare them for their own futures.


Bruno Bettelheim appeared to have had difficulties with depression for much of his life.


Bruno Bettelheim was a public intellectual, whose writing and many public appearances in popular media paralleled a growing post WWII interest in psychoanalysis.


Richard Pollak's biography of Bruno Bettelheim argues that such popular appearances shielded his unethical behavior from scrutiny.


Bruno Bettelheim appeared as himself in the 1983 Woody Allen mockumentary Zelig.


Sources disagree whether Bruno Bettelheim's PhD was in art history or in philosophy.


Bruno Bettelheim believed, falsely, that Bettelheim was certified to conduct psychoanalysis though Bettelheim never received such certification.


Bertram Cohler and Jacquelyn Sanders at the Orthogenic School believed Bruno Bettelheim had a PhD in art history.


In some of his own writings, Bruno Bettelheim implied that he had written a dissertation on the philosophy of education.


Bruno Bettelheim later claimed that it was Patsy who inspired him to study autism and embellished her into two or even several autistic children in his home.


The University of Chicago biographical sketch of Bruno Bettelheim listed a single PhD but no subject area.


Posthumous biographies of Bruno Bettelheim have investigated these claims and have come to no clear conclusions about his credentials.


Bruno Bettelheim had earned a non-honors degree in philosophy, he had made acquaintances in the psychoanalytic community, and his first wife had helped raise a troubled child.


Pollak's biography states that two women reported that Bruno Bettelheim had fondled their breasts and those of other female students at the school while he was ostensibly apologizing to each for beating her.


In 1991, Alan Dundes published an article in the Journal of American Folklore in which he claimed Bruno Bettelheim had engaged in plagiarism in his 1976 The Uses of Enchantment.


Bruno Bettelheim argued that Bettelheim had copied from a variety of sources, including Dundes' own 1967 paper on Cinderella, but most of all from Dr Julius E Heuscher's 1963 book A Psychiatric Study of Fairy Tales.


Many students and staff at the school have argued that Bruno Bettelheim was abusive, violent, and cruel to them and to others.


All agree that Bruno Bettelheim frequently struck his young and vulnerable patients.


Jacquelyn Sanders, who later became director of the Orthogenic School, said she thought it was a case of Bruno Bettelheim getting too much success too quickly.


Bruno Bettelheim believed that autism did not have an organic basis, but resulted when mothers withheld appropriate affection from their children and failed to make a good connection with them.


Bruno Bettelheim derived his thinking from the qualitative investigation of clinical cases.


Bruno Bettelheim related the world of autistic children to conditions in concentration camps.


Bruno Bettelheim adapted and transformed the Orthogenic School at the University of Chicago as a residential treatment milieu for such children, who he felt would benefit from a "parentectomy".


Scientists such as Bernard Rimland challenged Bruno Bettelheim's view of autism by arguing that autism is a neurodevelopmental issue.


Jordynn Jack writes that Bruno Bettelheim's ideas gained currency and became popular in large part because society already tended to blame a mother first and foremost for her child's difficulties.


Bruno Bettelheim became one of the most prominent defenders of Hannah Arendt's book Eichmann in Jerusalem.


Bruno Bettelheim wrote a positive review for The New Republic.


Bruno Bettelheim has been criticized for promoting the myth that Jews went "like sheep to the slaughter" and for blaming Anne Frank and her family for their own deaths due to not owning firearms, fleeing, or hiding more effectively.