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Chloe at sixteen months

Chloe was in the garden running and screeching after a football, throwing it into the house with a wide smile. However, once they sat down to eat the atmosphere changed. Mother gave them all plates of pasta, and Chloe sat in her chair quietly, having eaten half a banana, and was rather ignored. The adults were busy with the other children. Chloe did not make a sound, and hardly moved. At first she looked around observing, and after a while her eyes took on a glazed look. When Mother went around with a bag of cheese, Chloe tried to reach it, but did not manage to get Mother's attention. Chloe did not talk or try to engage. There was little sign of the lively young girl who had been running around excitedly early on, and the observer remarked that it was as if he had observed two different children in one hour.

Chloe was loved and well cared for, yet her experiences were a little different from the other children in the group, mostly in that she had learnt from the start that she had to find a place in the family system and was unlikely to get very much individual attention. She was born into a culture where families often have very large numbers of children, and she will soon be learning new roles in relation to her as yet unborn successors. While the observations at times were painful for group members, it became clear that she was not unhappy, nor having a bad experience, just a slightly different one, and was learning just what it takes to be a child in a family like hers whose values were more socio-centric than most in Britain today.

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