Excerpt from Margaret Cobb, “The Mentality of Dependent Children,” 1922

The family histories of the first dozen of our cases, taken alphabetically, are reproduced herewith:—

1. Father a drunkard and abusive to family. Mother died. May, 1915, T.B. She had 12 children, 10 of whom died in infancy. The other living child is 15 years of age. Works in a factory. Diagnosis made in Boston by New England Home for Little Wanderers is as follows: Chronological age 11, mental age, Binet 8.8, Yerkes, 7.8, Coef. I.Q., 61. (I.Q. of patient, 82 Stanford revision) Prognosis–very poor.

2. Father died of T.B. Mother at present is patient in Wallingford T. B. Sanitarium. Both parents come from stock superior to that of average immigrant. Paternal grandfather is a druggist and known to be a man of intelligence and some education. (I.Q. of patient, 90).

3. Mother and father were heavy drinkers. Family fell below average social status before father’s death in 1914. Siblings: 1. Female, 20 years, St. Vincent’s Training School for Nurses. 2. Female, 16 years. Has illegitimate child. 3. Female, 15 years. 4. Pt., male, 14 years. 5. Male, 12 years. (I.Q. of patient, 81).

4. Mother is dead. Father was a drunkard and abusive to his children who lived in constant fear of him. (I.Q. of patient, 90).

5. Parents have separated for the 6th time. Their life together has always been unhappy. Father is jealous of mother who is 13 years younger than he. Mother in turn accuses him of mistreating her. (I.Q. of patient, 93).

6. Father a heavy drinker. Mother reported immoral. Family lived in constant state of destitution. One brother; considered feeble-minded by teachers. Recently released from Meriden Industrial School. Sister was considered very backward by teachers when in school. (I.Q. of patient, 83).

7. Father was a drunkard and 22 years older than his wife who is an extremely nervous, frail woman, considered by all who know her to be mentally deficient. Upon autopsy, it was found that one-fourth of father’s brain was destroyed. Brother, 16 years, emotionally unstable, possibly psychopathic. I.Q. of patient 59. Sister, 11 years, I.Q., 53. Brother, 11 years, I.Q., 95, emotionally unstable.

8. Mother is dead. She and one sister were syphilitic. Father deserted children after mother’s death. He was considered a smart man and a capable worker but refused to keep any job steadily. (I.Q. of patient 96).

9. Both parents were immoral. Father who was probably subnormal was involved in a “White Slave” affair with his son and was reported as an undesirable alien. Mother is said to be syphilitic, is emotionally unstable, and thoroughly unreliable. (I.Q., 93).

10. Mother, a woman of the vampire type, was immoral with a number of men. The father a laborer, physically and mentally her inferior, was frequently jailed by her for drunkenness and abuse. In 1916 she eloped with another man, taking the youngest child with her. (I.Q. of patient, 58).

11. Father comes from a family in which nervous troubles are common and has been a patient in Middletown since 1914. He has dementia praecox, and also T.B. Mother had two illegitimate children before she met him, and lived with him for some years before marriage. She is now living with another man. (I.Q. of patient, 94).

12. Mother died from tuberculosis after a long illness. Family self-respecting. (I.Q. of patient, 95).


Source: Margaret Evertson Cobb, “The Mentality of Dependent Children,” Journal of Delinquency 7 (May 1922):139-140.

Page Updated: 2-24-2012
Site designed by:

To learn more about The Adoption History Project, please contact Ellen Herman
Department of History, University of Oregon
Eugene, Oregon 97403-1288
(541) 346-3699
E-mail: adoption@uoregon.edu
About the Project and the Author
© Ellen Herman