Douglas Haldane

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 05 October 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e6616
  1. Una McCluskey, senior research fellow, University of York,
  2. Christopher Clulow, senior fellow, Tavistock Centre for Couple Relationships, London W1T 5PB
  1. Correspondence to: C Clulow christopher.clulow{at}

Child psychiatrist who believed that family dynamics were key

In 1960 as consultant psychiatrist and deputy physician superintendent at Stratheden Hospital, Cupar, in Fife, Douglas Haldane, who has died aged 86, established the department of child and family psychiatry. His vision at Playfield House, Stratheden Hospital was to include families in treating children with mental health problems. He was the first consultant to call it the department for child and family psychiatry, and he was the first and only psychiatrist to get the resources to purpose build houses where whole families could be admitted for treatment.

Haldane believed that a child’s mental health was deeply affected by family dynamics and found that engaging with a child alone often had minimal effect on wellbeing. Two residential units to enable work with the whole family were opened in 1975. Haldane also encouraged sessions for parents, where the focus was on their relationship as a couple. He believed that helping parents with their dynamics as partners as opposed to parents would have positive effects on the wellbeing of children.

Vision and influence

Haldane was much influenced by Donald Winnicott and John Bowlby.

Winnicott was a psychoanalyst and paediatrician at Paddington Green Children’s Hospital. He made a seminal contribution to the understanding of children’s development and what they need from their parents, particularly through his radio programmes transmitted …

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