2017 Wright - Inventing the Normal Child.pdf (524.06 kB)

Inventing the "normal' child: psychology, delinquency, and the promise of early intervention

Download (524.06 kB)
journal contribution
posted on 2021-02-02, 02:29 authored by Katie WrightKatie Wright
© 2017, © The Author(s) 2017. Constructions of normality and abnormality in discussions of young people changed considerably in the early to mid-twentieth century in many parts of the world, including Australia. The perennial trope of youth as a threat assumed a distinctly new form in this era, as the troubled and troublesome child, the incipient and confirmed delinquent, was reconfigured through emerging knowledges of the human sciences. Exploring the effects of new concerns with the ‘normal’, this article begins by examining the construct of normalcy and its interdependency with notions of the ‘abnormal’, particularly juvenile delinquency, as the antithesis of personal and social adjustment. Yet the discursive strategies that saw delinquency, at one level, recognized as a complex and multi-causal problem also construed it as amenable to clinical solutions, notably psychological intervention. The article explores how emergent ideas of the importance of early intervention created divisions between three groups of youthful populations: the ‘normal child’ deemed well adjusted, the ‘problem child’ thought to be responsive to adjustive measures, and the ‘confirmed delinquent’, whose behaviour was considered intractable and was thus unlikely to attain the socially desired status of normalcy.


The author disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: Katie Wright is the recipient of an Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (ARC DECRA), DE140100060, 'Childhood Maltreatment and Late Modernity: Public Inquiries, Social Justice and Education', 2014-2018, which supported the development of this article.


Publication Date



History of the Human Sciences






22p. (p. 46-67)





Rights Statement

The Author reserves all moral rights over the deposited text and must be credited if any re-use occurs. Documents deposited in OPAL are the Open Access versions of outputs published elsewhere. Changes resulting from the publishing process may therefore not be reflected in this document. The final published version may be obtained via the publisher’s DOI. Please note that additional copyright and access restrictions may apply to the published version.

Usage metrics

    Journal Articles


    No categories selected