Bettelheim, Bruno bĕt´əlhīm˝ [key], 1903–90, American developmental psychologist, b. Austria. He received his doctoral degree (1938) from the Univ. of Vienna. He was imprisoned in the Dachau and Buchenwald concentration camps during the Nazi occupation of Austria. After emigrating to the United States in 1939, he published (1943) a highly influential essay on the psychology of concentration camp prisoners. He taught psychology at the Univ. of Chicago (1944–73) and directed the Chicago-based Orthogenic School for children with emotional problems, placing special emphasis on the treatment of autism. Bettelheim believed that autistic children had been raised in unstimulating environments during the first few years of their lives, when language and motor skills were developing. Although his theories on autism have been largely discredited, he authored a number of influential works on child development, including The Informed Heart (1960), The Empty Fortress (1967), and The Uses of Enchantment (1976).
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