The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, Vol. 17: The Development of Personality

A marked change occurs when the child develops consciousness of his ego, a fact which is registered by his referring to himself
as “I.”

This change normally takes place between the third and fifth year, but it may begin earlier.

From this moment we can speak of the existence of an individual psyche, though normally the psyche attains relative independence only after puberty.

Up till then it has been largely the plaything of instinct and environment.

The child who enters school at six is still for the most part the psychic product of his parents, endowed, it is true, with the nucleus of ego-consciousness, but incapable of asserting his unconscious individuality.

One is often tempted to interpret children who are peculiar, obstinate, disobedient, or difficult to handle as especially individual or self-willed.

This is a mistake.

In such cases we should always examine the parental milieu, its psychological conditions and history. Almost without exception we discover in the parents the only valid reasons for the child’s difficulties.

His disquieting peculiarities are far less the expression of his own inner life than a reflection of disturbing influences in the home.

If the physician has to deal with nervous disorders in a child of this age, he will have to pay serious attention to the psychic state of the parents; to their problems, the way they live and do not live,

the aspirations they have fulfilled or neglected, and to the predominant family atmosphere and the method of education.

All these psychic conditions influence a child profoundly.

In his early years the child lives in a state of participation mystique with his parents.

Time and again it can be seen how he reacts immediately to any important developments in the parental psy- che.

Needless to say both the parents and the child are unconscious of what is going on.

The infectious nature of the parents’ complexes can be seen from the effect their mannerisms have on their children.

Even when they make completely successful efforts to control themselves, so that no adult could detect the least trace of a complex, the children will get wind of it somehow.

I remember a very revealing case of three girls who had a most devoted mother.

When they were approaching puberty they confessed shamefacedly to each other that for years they had suffered from horrible dreams about her.

They dreamt of her as a witch or a dangerous animal, and they could not understand it at all, since their mother was so lovely and so utterly devoted to them.

Years later the mother became insane, and in her insanity would exhibit a sort of lycanthropy in which she crawled about on all fours and imitated the grunting of pigs, the barking of dogs, and the growling of bears. Carl Jung, CW 17, Para 1071