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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 78

The Time for Growth

The Time for Growth.

The harmful influence of faulty hygienic arrangements, particularly in regard to open air, sunlight, exercise, and recreation, tells more gravely on the organism at the momentous period of puberty than at any other time of life. The reason is obvious. (See Fig. I Graphic Chart, opposite page.) Growth is taking place more rapidly then than at any period after infancy—everything is in a state of transition. There is necessarily considerable disequihbration, and the awakening into intense activity of wide areas of brain tissue previously dormant does not take place without some tendency to loss of control. Any undue mental stress brought to bear at this critical tunning point will express itself in further loss of the power of control, and may lead to disaster in the case of either sex. Wrong habits are liable to be contracted, and though insanity itself is essentially a disease of adult life, and scarcely ever arises after birth before the age of twenty is reached, yet we frequently have the seeds of future disabilities in men and women sown during school life. Where insanity supervenes before twenty it is almost invariably associated with sexual accompaniments, which show clearly to the physician where the lines of defence should be set up. All the greatest schoolmasters of our times, from Arnold of Rugby to Almond of Loretto, have been keenly alive to these considerations, and no one can afford to ignore them who has at heart the welfare of any class of boys or girls. Safety lies in high, spirits, good vigorous normal health, and plenty of physical activity. Hysteria or any other manifestation of lack of control is the natural accompaniment of a jaded system and feeble vitality. When there is defective nutrition the highest and most delicate brain cells associated with the noblest functions are the first to suffer; then the organism, dominated from more resistive, more primitive, and lower centres, tends to yield to "the tyranny of its organisation." Dr Lindo Ferguson finds that an extreme liability to nervous breakdown in connection with sight occurs in girls at twelve to fiften, and he remarks: "The explanation of the breakdown lies not so much in any inability of healthy children to face a physiological change naturally under normal conditions as to the undue nervous effort during that change caused by the standard of education which the scholarship system ea tails."

If women in general were rendered more fit for maternity, if instrumental deliveries were obviated as far as possible if infants were nourished by this mothers, and boys and girls were given rational education, the main supplies of population for our asylums, hospitals benevolent institutions, goals, and slows would be cut off at the sources. Further 1 do not hesitate to say that a very remarkable improvement would take place in the physical, mental, and moral condition of the whole community.