The paper is a synthesis of two previously published articles on the girlhood of girls from rural areas of continental Croatia who were hospitalized at the Royal Institute for the Mentally Ill in Stenjevec, the first Croatian psychiatric hospital, in the late 19th and early 20th century. The focus of consideration was the analysis of the consequences of physical, psychological and sexual abuse and unattainable love relationships with men on girls’ mental health. First of all, it turned out that many girls had to leave the family home very early due to poverty and go to more urban centers to look for jobs. There, they were mostly employed in the grey zone of work, and in addition to being exposed to labor exploitation, they were also exploited sexually. Secondly, it was established that some girls’ (self)destructive behaviors were caused by the fact that they did not achieve a romantic relationship with the man of their dreams and that they did not get married. In both cases, it turned out that the aforementioned traumatic and unpleasant experiences were the trigger for the appearance of the first symptoms of mental disorders, and that the risk factors for their development were their gender and age, lack of social support, poverty and a low or no level of education. Both articles were based on the research of psychiatric records stored in the Archives of the Clinic for Psychiatry Vrapče in Zagreb.


Jelena Seferović