A Scientific Film (1952)                 Robertson Films Home Page


A Two Year-Old Goes To Hospital 

 Classic film showing the suffering of a little girl in hospital separated from her mother

. A vivid study of the problem of admitting to hospital a child who is too young to be effectively prepared for the experience or to be made contented in the absence of her mother. This film has been designated “of national and historic importance” and a copy is being preserved in the National Archives.

If going to hospital means losing the care of the mother, the young child will fret for her -- no matter how kind the doctors, nurses, and play ladies. This film classic, made in 1952, drew attention to the plight of young patients at a time when visiting by parents was severely restricted.
Laura, aged 2, is in hospital for 8 days to have a minor operation. She is too young to understand her mother's absence. Because her mother is not there and the nurses change frequently, she has to face the fears, frights and hurts with no familiar person to cling to. She is extremely upset by a rectal anaesthetic. Then she becomes quiet and "settles". But at the end of her stay she is withdrawn from her mother, shaken in her trust.
In recent years there have been great changes in children's wards, partly brought about by this film. But many young children still go to hospital without the mother, and despite the play ladies and volunteers the depth of their distress and the risks to later mental health remain an insufficiently recognised problem.
This film study of typical emotional deterioration in an unaccompanied young patient, and of the subtle ways in which she shows or conceals deep feelings of distress, remains as vivid and relevant as when it was made.

  “The restraint and objectivity of the film may at first re­assure, for the child is unusually composed for her age, but few nurses will doubt the degree of her distress, the signs of which they have so often felt powerless to relieve.”—Nursing Times. “. . . explodes the belief that a ‘good’ child is well­-adjusted.”—Nursing Outlook. Though the standard of care in the hospital was high she undoubtedly fretted." -British Medical Journal. “. . . convincing and brilliant demonstration ad oculos of the outward manifestations of the inner processes that occur in infants who find themselves unexpec­tedly and traumatically without their families.”—Anna Freud, LL.D., International Journal of Psychoanalysis."...a connected and credible demonstration of stress, separation anxiety, early defensive manoeuvres, and topics akin. .also a social document of honest power. Without preaching, it bears a message of reform. . ."—Contemporary Psychology.


Admitting the mother to help in his care makes hospital a much happier place for the young child.  It is also a positive measure of preventative mental health.

Separation from the mother can be traumatic and may leave long lasting and possibly permanent emotional disturbances.  The presence of the mother disposes of that danger.

Her presence also helps to prevent anxieties arising from illness, pain, investigation and operation from becoming cumulatively overwhelming.


Background reading:

       Young Children in Hospital, 3rd Edn., London         James Robertson,

       Separation and the Very Young, 1989          James and Joyce Robertson


(See also the complementary film "Going to Hospital With Mother".)

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