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J Fam Hist. 2006 Oct;31(4):358-85.

Growing up Kennedy: the role of medical ailments in the life of JFK, 1920-1957.

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  • 1Missouri State University, Springfield, USA.


As a result of the opening of new materials at the John F Kennedy Library relating to John F Kennedy's medical problems, we have a better understanding of the specific nature of those ailments, how they were treated, and how he responded to them. Most important, this study focuses on how his medical problems affected his relationship with his parents, especially his father, in the context of an older sibling who personified what a Kennedy should be: bright, athletic, and healthy. John Kennedy's response to family expectations produced a sometimes rebellious and detached youth who learned to rely on his charm, wit, intellect, and inner toughness to overcome adversity. In the process of dealing with serious medical issues into adulthood, John Kennedy revealed both courage and fortitude-traits that would eventually carry him to the White House.

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