Tony Humphreys

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Tony Humphreys is an Irish educator and the author of eleven self-help books translated into 15 languages and available in 28 countries. They notably include A Different Kind of Teacher, Self-esteem: the Key to your Child's Future (1995), The Power of "Negative" Thinking (1996) and Children Feeling Good (1998).

Dr Humphreys is a parent-mentor and motivational speaker. He regularly writes about psychology and illness in the Irish Times and in the Irish Examiner, where he has contributed a psychology column for over ten years. He believes strongly in the impact of unconditional love, or its absence, on physical health. He is the Director of a number of courses in Parent Mentoring, Interpersonal Communication and Relationship Studies at University College Cork and at All Hallows College, Drumcondra, Dublin.

Early Life and Education[edit]

Upbringing left a significant psychological imprint on Tony Humphreys and on his philosophy. He was "constantly and unfavourably compared with his twin brother" and sought approval by assuming the role of carer for his invalided mother.[1] He left school at fifteen[2] and joined a monastery at eighteen for a period of 7 years. He left the monastery a month before taking his vows "having lost all belief in Catholicism" immediately left his devoutly religious family, who had rejected him.[3] He sought alternative spirituality and put himself through night school to obtain a degree and higher diploma in Physical Education, followed by an MA in 1977[4] and PhD in 1983[5] in Psychology.

Refrigerator mother theory[edit]

Tony Humphreys promotes the Refrigerator mother theory of the aetiology of autistic behaviours[6][7] first popularised by Bruno Bettelheim, and does not believe in the existence of the clinical manifestations known as autism or autistic spectrum disorder (ASD). His published opinions have drawn vociferous complaints from the Minister for Health and Children, Dr James Reilly,[8] from groups representing families affected by autism[9] and a censure calling for retraction from the Psychological Society of Ireland[10] and his retirement by members of ICAAN (The Irish Council for Aspies and Autistic Networking).[11] He continues to maintain that frigid parenting – conscious, subconscious or unconscious – is the root cause of 'autistic' behavioural issues in the family.[12] The Press Ombudsman of Ireland adjudicated that "the offence was not only widespread but grave, could have been interpreted as gratuitously provocative, and might have been avoided or at least minimized if the topic had been presented in a different manner".[13]

Dr Humphreys has taken the Refrigerator Mother theory further than others, with claims that abuse and emotional neglect are the cause of schizophrenia[14] and a range of other childhood behaviours that are 'labelled' as medical disorders, including oppositional-defiant disorder (ODD), attention-deficit disorder (ADD), attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyspraxia and dyslexia[15] in addition to ASDs. He believes that these 'labelled disorders' are avoidant behavioural adjustments that enable a threatened child "to survive in a painful world of conditionality" and are curable through "unconditionally valuing and caring" relationships.[16] He has made similar claims for emotionally challenging environments causing the onset of asthma.[17] Both professional and advocate groups have decried his theory of the aetiology of schizophrenia.[18]


  • Humphreys, Tony (1995). A Different Kind of Teacher, Self-esteem the Key to your Child's Future. Dublin: Gill & Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-7171-3790-9. 
  • Humphreys, Tony (1996). The Power of "Negative" Thinking. Dublin: Gill & Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-7171-2443-5. 
  • Humphreys, Tony (1998a). A Different Kind of Discipline. Dublin: Gill & Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-7171-2807-5. 
  • Humphreys, Tony (1998b). Children Feeling Good. Dublin: Veritas. ISBN 978-1-85390-374-8. 
  • Humphreys, Tony (2000). Work and Worth: Take Back Your Life. Dublin: Gill & Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-7171-3122-8. 
  • Humphreys, Tony (2002). Self-Esteem, The Key to Your Child's Future. Dublin: Gill & Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-7171-2990-4. 
  • Humphreys, Tony (2003). Whose Life are you Living?. Dublin: Gill & Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-7171-3662-9. 
  • Humphreys, Tony (2004a). All About Children, Questions Parents Ask. Dublin: Gill & Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-7171-3740-4. 
  • Humphreys, Tony (2004b). Leaving The Nest. Dublin: Gill & Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-7171-3734-3. 
  • Humphreys, Tony (2005). Myself, My Partner. Dublin: Gill & Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-7171-3914-9. 


  1. ^ Fergal Keane (2 April 2000). "It's good for the soul to feel bad about yourself". Sunday Independent. 
  2. ^ Irish Times. 9 June 2004  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. ^ Humphreys, Tony (22 July 2011). "Heaven within". Irish Examiner. p. 7. 
  4. ^ Anthony Humphreys (1977), Cognitive, non-cognitive, biographic and demographic correlates of students' performance in first university examinations. Dissertation Thesis (M.A.), Cork: Department of Applied Psychology, University College Cork 
  5. ^ Anthony Humphreys (1983), An experimental investigation of hypnosis as an adjunct to the behavioural treatment of phobias. Thesis (Ph.D.), Birmingham: Department of Clinical Psychology, University of Birmingham 
  6. ^ Humphreys, Tony (3 February 2012). "Core connection: A diagnosis of Asperger's syndrome does little to help a child troubled by unhappy relationships". Irish Examiner. p. 7. 
  7. ^ Brenda Power (12 February 2012). "Peers may take issue with Dr Tony Humphreys's claim to be "Ireland's most influential psychologist"". Sunday Times. p. 13. 
  8. ^ Ronan McGreevy (14 February 2012). "Reilly calls autism claims outrageous". Irish Times. 
  9. ^ Kevin Whelan (7 February 2012). "We don't need to defrost an assumption over 70 years old". 
  10. ^ Stephen Rogers (10 February 2012). "Comments 'likely to cause upset'". Irish Examiner. 
  11. ^ "ICAAN calls for Dr Tony Humphreys' resignation". 
  12. ^ "Psychologist Humphreys shocked by Reaction to Autism Comments". Irish Examiner. 11 February 2012. Archived from the original on 18 February 2012. 
  13. ^ Press Council of Ireland (17 May 2012). "Mr Mark Connolly and Others and the Irish Examiner". Decisions of the Press Ombudsman. 
  14. ^ Kathryn Holmquist (21 May 1996). "The power of negative thinking". Irish Times. p. 11. 
  15. ^ Humphreys, Tony (28 October 2011). "Our rigid labels: Neglect does not irretrievably 'hard-wire' infants – Damage can be undone with unconditional love". p. 5. 
  16. ^ Humphreys, Tony (7 February 1995). "Learning about your 'worth'". Irish Times. p. 5. 
  17. ^ Humphreys, Tony (21 May 2010). "An inner longing: The absence of unconditional love in the home is a factor in the onset of asthmatic attacks". Irish Examiner. p. 5. 
  18. ^ Ciara Doyle (Communications Assistant, Schizophrenia Ireland) (6 June 1996). "Schizophrenia". Irish Times. p. 15. 

See also[edit]

External links[edit]