1967: Psychologist Bruno Bettelheim popularizes the theory that "refrigerator mothers," as he termed them, caused autism by not loving their children enough. (Spoiler alert: This is completely false.) "Post-World War II, there was a lot of psychoanalytic work done on autism where researchers looked solely at the impact of life experiences," explains Parents advisor Fred Volkmar, ., director of the Child Study Center at Yale University School of Medicine and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Autism & Developmental Disorders . "They didn't consider the role of biology or genetics, which we now understand to be the main cause." Autism is also classified under schizophrenia in the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems , although scientists now know there is no link between the conditions.
Whatever the reason behind the trend, Morris’ article provides a golden opportunity to ponder the sheer amount of patricide and (especially) matricide in the Disney canon, along with a heaping helping of good old-fashioned child abandonment. Supplementing the text, the article helpfully includes several charts which group the movies into major categories: “Mothers killed and/or captured in film” ( The Fox And The Hound , Finding Nemo ), “Adoptive mothers and evil stepmothers” ( Enchanted , Tangled ), and “Single mothers and fathers” ( Aladdin , Pocahontas ). Whether or not this is all simply coincidental, Morris puts it best: “It’s too present to ignore.”