Infantilism


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infantilism

[′in·fən·tə‚liz·əm]
(medicine)
Persistence of physical, behavioral, or mental infantile characteristics into childhood, adolescence, or adult life.

Infantilism

 

arrested development, the preservation in adults of physical and mental characteristics of children. It may be caused by infectious diseases (tuberculosis, syphilis, malaria, or various recurrent infections), poisoning, diseases of the brain, cardiovascular system, and kidneys, or protracted intestinal disorders. Poor diet, vitamin deficiency, and unsanitary living conditions can also cause infantilism. Endocrine disorders and congenital constitutional defects are also related to its occurrence.

A distinction is made between universal infantilism (general retarded development of the entire body) and partial infantilism (retarded development of certain organs and systems). Individuals suffering from universal infantilism often retain the body proportions of a child. They have a delicate, frail physique, a long narrow chest, thin bones, a small heart, and a narrow aorta. Their blood pressure is low, and their secondary sex characteristics are not fully developed. Resistance to infectious diseases is low. Partial infantilism is characterized by dysfunctions of certain systems or organs.

Mental infantilism and sex infantilism are particulary common forms of partial infantilism. Mental infantilism is marked by extreme moodiness, inattentiveness, a tendency to daydream, suggestibility, touchiness, and timidity in the face of new situations. Judgments are shallow and hasty. Lightheartedness and frivolity are combined with egocentrism and childish insistence. Sex infantilism is characterized by sparse underarm and pubic hair. In females the breasts and uterus are underdeveloped, the pelvis is frequently narrow, and the menstrual periods are irregular. Females afflicted with infantilism are often infertile. Some suffer miscarriages or extrauterine pregnancies. Sex infantilism appears much less frequently in males. It is manifested by an underdevelopment of external and internal genitalia and of the prostate gland, an absence of sexual drive, and sexual dysfunction.

Treatment for infantilism includes the creation of sanitary conditions, adequate diet, and physical activity. Children suffering from the affliction should reside in forest schools, pioneer camps, or sanatoriums. The disease causing infantilism must also be treated. If the endocrine glands are affected, hormones (sex hormones, thyroiodinum, or pituitary preparations) are prescribed.

N. R. SHASTIN

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