Childhood Studies Childcare Manuals
by
Angela Davis
  • LAST REVIEWED: 19 July 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 13 January 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791231-0066

Introduction

There have always been experts advising parents how to raise their children: community elders, religious leaders, and medical men and women, among others. In most cultures, though, childrearing advice has been passed on by word of mouth, often among neighbors and kin. Even in modern developed societies oral transmission continues, with knowledge and information about childrearing practices passed down the generations and between peers. However, a significant change occurred in the 18th century with the proliferation of printed material. Coupled with demographic changes such as smaller families and increased social and geographical mobility, the availability of childcare literature encouraged parents to turn to this new source of advice. Advice manuals have been written by a range of experts, from physicians and philosophers to educators and psychologists, and their authors have also included parents themselves. Underlying themes present within the manuals selected here are the tension between “scientific” and “natural” approaches to childrearing, and the degree to which parents should try to meet or anticipate their children’s needs and wants. However, when reading advice literature we need to remain cautious about the picture of childrearing such manuals present. While we have evidence that manuals were written, and even that they were read, we know far less about if and how parents actually followed the advice they contained. Just because mothers had “the book” it did not mean they used it. Differences occurred in how parents accessed, received, and applied the advice on the grounds of gender, class, region, and ethnicity. Parents’ accessibility to other sources of advice, whether in the form of kin, professionals, or new technologies such as the Internet, has also varied. This article focuses on childcare manuals and books written or popular in translation in the English-speaking world, although reference is also made to cultures of childrearing in comparative perspective.

General Overviews

Childcare advice literature is a literary genre aimed at parents. In childcare manuals and related works authors who consider themselves experts in childrearing advise parents on how best to care for their offspring. It has been viewed as a means of tracing changing attitudes toward childhood, the relationship between parents, and childhood and wider social and cultural trends. For example, Beekman 1977 and Hardyment 2007 consider the history of popular childcare books in Britain and the United States. Taking a feminist stance, Ehrenreich and English 1978 looks at the rise of expert power over women in the field of childcare, as well as over other aspects of women’s lives, such as their health or housekeeping. Many studies of advice literature have focused on the United States in the 20th century, such as Grant 1998, Hulbert 2003, and Stearns 2003. However, sources such as Mechling 1975 also advise historians to be cautious in their use of manuals as a historical source.

  • Beekman, Daniel. The Mechanical Baby: A Popular History of the Theory and Practice of Child Raising. Westport, CT: Laurence Hill, 1977.

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    Considers popular childcare books, principally in Britain and the United States, from 1450 to the 1970s. The book considers the relationship between the history of childcare and the history of society. It is not intended as a scholarly reference work but an introduction to past generational trends in childcare.

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  • Ehrenreich, Barbara, and Deirdre English. For Her Own Good: 150 Years of the Experts’ Advice to Women. Garden City, NY: Anchor Press, 1978.

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    Written from a feminist perspective, Ehrenreich and English chart the rise of expert power over women. They propose that the ascendancy of the experts was linked to the growth of a market economy and professional science, and in turn with women’s loss of authority over their traditional tasks.

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  • Grant, Julia. Raising Baby by the Book: The Education of American Mothers. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998.

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    Grant uses mothers’ letters to Spock and Gesell to reconstruct the official and unofficial ideologies of American motherhood in the postwar years. She charts two parallel organizational forces: the professionalization of childrearing advice and the creation by women of clubs and organizations for sharing information and emotions about childcare.

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  • Hardyment, Christina. Dream Babies: Childcare Advice from John Locke to Gina Ford. London: Francis Lincoln, 2007.

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    Offers an account of how and why the advice of childcare experts has changed in Britain and the United States over the last 300 years. She argues that advice has been dependent on the social, philosophical, and psychological climate in which they were written.

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  • Hulbert, Ann. Raising America: Experts, Parents, and a Century of Advice about Children. New York: Knopf, 2003.

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    Considers American childcare experts in the 20th century. It divides the century into four quarters, focusing on the most influential experts of each period. The central theme of the book explores the tension between those experts who advocated tight parental control over children and those who advocated permissiveness.

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  • Mechling, Jay. “Advice to Historians on Advice to Mothers.” Journal of Social History 9 (1975): 44–63.

    DOI: 10.1353/jsh/9.1.44Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Poses four objections to using manuals in historical research: 1) doubt about the advice’s meaning; 2) sample bias; 3) the assumption parents learn to parent from manuals; and 4) that manuals are evidence of childrearing values. Instead he argues manuals are evidence of the “manual-writing” values of their authors.

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  • Mechling, Jay. “Child-Rearing Advice Literature.” In Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood in History and Society. Edited by Paula S. Fass. New York and London: Macmillan Reference USA, 2004.

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    Traces the history of childcare advice from the 17th century to the present, focusing on the American experience. He examines the social context and theoretical developments that lay behind the literature. In the conclusion he discusses general trends and the ideological nature of advice.

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  • Stearns, Peter N. Anxious Parents: A History of Modern Child-rearing in America. New York: New York University Press, 2003.

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    Asserts that parental anxiety in the United States rose dramatically in the 20th century. It bases this conclusion on the increased attention paid to parenting in both professional and prescriptive literature. Stearns elaborates on this argument in a series of chapters dealing with discipline, schooling, work, and entertainment.

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1700–1800

Enlightenment philosophers, such as Locke 1693 and Rousseau 1762, were among the first experts to write about the proper way to raise children, based on their theoretical understanding of “the natural child” and how children developed. During the 18th century, scientific psychology offered new theories about children that the manuals in this section also reflect. Medical men, such as Cadogan 1748, Nelson 1753, Buchan 1769 and Underwood 1784, were among the first to put their advice on how to rear children into print although they did not limit their advice to the purely medical; also they gave instructions on feeding, sleeping, and issues related to moral education. By the end of the century they had been joined by interested amateur authors, such as the authors of Edgeworth and Edgeworth 1798, who sought to present the educational theories of the time in an accessible manner. Their book also indicated how advice to parents had softened in the course of the 18th century, with scientific thinking slowly replacing purely moral advice.

  • Buchan, William. Domestic Medicine. Edinburgh: Balfour Auld and Smelle, 1769.

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    Although this was not the first work of its kind, it was immensely popular, selling 80,000 copies and being translated into many European languages. The first section of the book deals with childcare, which with an additional short section on infant diseases constituted 10 percent of the book.

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  • Cadogan, William. Essay on the Nursing and Management of Children. London: John Knapton, 1748.

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    Written for the nurses in London’s Thomas Coram’s Founding Hospital (opened in 1741), Cadogan’s aim was to introduce “a more reasonable” and less regimented method of nursing based on “Nature.” The book went through ten editions in the twenty-five years after its publication and was translated into several languages.

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  • Edgeworth, Maria, and Richard Lovell Edgeworth. Essays on Practical Education. London: J. Johnson, 1798.

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    Richard Lovell Edgeworth was deeply interested in education and was the father to twenty-two children. Advertised as a joint publication, it is now thought that his daughter Maria wrote the bulk of the work. It can be seen as an attempt to make a century’s worth of educational theory digestible for busy families.

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  • Locke, John. Some Thoughts Concerning Education. London: Churchill, 1693.

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    Locke explained how to educate children and young people using three distinct methods: the development of a healthy body; the formation of a virtuous character; and the choice of an appropriate academic curriculum. It was an extremely influential philosophical work and was translated into most of the major European languages.

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  • Nelson, James. Essay on the Government of Children. London: R. and J. Dodsley, 1753.

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    Nelson was an apothecary and father of seven practicing in London. The book was one of the most popular and comprehensive guides to childcare of its time. It included advice on the health, manners, and education of children from birth to twenty, giving equal weight to physical and moral needs.

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  • Rousseau, Jean Jacques. Emile, ou De l’éducation. Amsterdam: Jean Néaulme, 1762.

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    In Emile, Rousseau lays out his ideals for education. The first four books concern Emile’s infancy, childhood, and adolescence. The fifth discusses women’s education, introducing Emile’s wife-to-be, Sophie. Emile offered childcare its first systematic philosophy: the child as an unspoiled creature of nature, the offspring of the noble savage.

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  • Underwood, Michael. A Treatise on the Diseases of Children. London: J. Matthews, 1784.

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    Underwood was the first physician‐accoucheur appointed to the Royal College of Physicians in London. Treatise on the Diseases of Children was formed of three parts: 1) diseases; 2) surgery; and 3) the general management of infants. The book was written for the laity as well as for the profession.

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1800–1900

During the 19th century, childcare became increasingly professionalized. Firstly, with the industrialization and urbanization of life in the Atlantic world came the increasing separation of life into two spheres, the public and the private, which also came to be associated with gender roles. Women were expected to run the domestic sphere (Warren 1865) with educationalists stressing the role of mothers in imprinting moral values on the child in infancy (Martineau 1849). Secondly, medicine made considerable advances and in result there was an expanded awareness of children’s physical needs, which was reflected in the advice literature by physicians such as Smiles 1838, Chavasse 1839, Bull 1840, and Combe 1840. Some lay authors lamented these changes. Indeed Cobbett 1829 published Advice to Young Men out of a keen sense that the nursing father, like other traditional manifestations of English manhood, counted for less and less. However, other authors, such as Harland 1886, were proud of the progress in infant care that had been made.

  • Bull, Thomas. Maternal Management of Children in Health and Disease. London: Longman, Orme, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1840.

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    Bull, a London physician-accoucheur, wrote two successful books on childcare. Maternal Management of Children ran to eight editions by 1877. Bull advocated a structured approach to childcare: for example, providing detailed instructions on how, what, and when to feed babies, as well as on the treatment of illnesses.

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  • Chavasse, Pye Henry. Advice to Mothers on the Management of Their Offspring. London: Longman, Orme, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1839.

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    One of the most popular handbooks of its age in both Britain and America. Chavasse used a question-and-answer format to present his advice. It had been through eighteen editions by 1896, and the book remained in print until 1948, with substantial revisions.

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  • Cobbett, William. Advice to Young Men and Incidentally Young Women on How to be a Father. London: William Cobbett, 1829.

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    In Advice to Young Men, Cobbett offered a series of advice to different types of people, such as the youth, young man, lover, and husband. As idiosyncratic as Cobbett himself, the book was as much case history as manual and was based on his own experiences as a father.

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  • Combe, Andrew. A Treatise on the Physiological and Moral Management of Infancy. New York: Fowler and Wells, 1840.

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    Combe was a physician and physiologist who published a number of popular health treatises. Despite its title, this book was intended as a practical manual for mothers, with chapters on subjects including infant mortality, the mother’s health and diet and the nursery, feeding and moral training, and mental development.

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  • Harland, Marion. Common Sense in the Nursery. Glasgow, Scotland: Morison, 1886.

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    Christine Terhune Herrick, who used the pen name Marion Harland, was a writer on child rearing, household duties, and personal growth for women. Common Sense in the Nursery was based on a series of articles she wrote as one of the editors of the magazine Babyhood.

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  • Martineau, Harriet. Household Education. London: Edward Moxon, 1849.

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    Martineau lamented the state of women’s education. She believed women had a natural inclination to motherhood and that domestic and academic work went together in a proper education. It was received with some controversy in conventional Christian circles due to its utilitarian ethics and advocacy of individualism.

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  • Smiles, Samuel. Physical Education, or the Nurture and Management of Children. Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1838.

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    Smiles first made his mark as a physician writing about children. Physical Education offered parents “laws of infant development,” which would enable them to be bring up their children properly: instinct and nature were no longer enough in the raising of children and mothers now needed information and guidance.

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  • Warren, Eliza. How I Managed My Children from Infancy to Marriage. London: Houlston and Wright, 1865.

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    From the 1860s through to the end of the 19th century Mrs. Warren was a familiar name in household management. Her manuals all went through several editions, selling thousands of copies in Britain and across the Atlantic. Warren also acquired considerable reputation as the editor of the Ladies’ Treasury.

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1900–1930

By the turn of the 20th-century pediatrics and child psychology were established specialties. The Child Study Movement (Hogan 1898) had provided scientific foundations for advice to parents based on the observation and measurement of infants as they grew. As standardization spread from factories to homes, childrearing manuals stressed the value of regularity in eating, sleeping, bathing, bowel habits, and exercise as was seen in the advice of Holt 1894 and King 1913. The period also witnessed an increasing commercialization of childcare, which was exemplified by the success of Glaxo Laboratories 1908. In the 1920s a new theory emerged in the form of behaviorism, which was dominant in North America between 1920 and 1960 and extolled in the work of Watson 1928. However, challenging the hegemony of the expert at this time, there were also writers such as Frankenburg 1922, whose book was based on her personal experience as a mother.

  • Frankenburg, Charis Ursula. Common Sense in the Nursery. London: Christophers, 1922.

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    Frankenburg wrote the book because she felt there was an absence of a good work on the subject. She regarded her experiences of raising four children as her best qualification. The book, which discusses all aspects of the nursery, such as food, sleep and crying, was reprinted several times.

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  • Glaxo Laboratories. Glaxo Baby Book. London: Glaxo, 1908.

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    Launched in response to the letters Glaxo received from mothers seeking advice about infant feeding, over a million copies of the Glaxo Baby Book were printed between 1908 and 1922. It was called “the most successful form of advertising of the present day” by Advertising World magazine in 1915.

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  • Hogan, Louise. A Study of a Child. New York and London: Harper, 1898.

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    This was a journal of Hogan’s son’s development based on careful daily observations of his behavior. It is an example of the baby biographies that were meticulously detailed accounts, usually kept by mothers, of the day-to-day development of individual infants inspired by the Child Study Movement.

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  • Holt, Luther Emmett. The Care and Feeding of Children. New York: D. Appleton, 1894.

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    Written as a text for instructing nurses, the book achieved a far wider circulation. Holt’s popularity lay in the comprehensive coverage he gave to the question of feeding and physical growth, and in the book’s style: firm and positive, without ambiguity or doubts.

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  • King, Frederic Truby. Feeding and Care of Baby. London: Macmillan, 1913.

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    King was a New Zealand doctor famous for his work on child welfare. He advised that babies need strict routines. He emphasized the importance of feeding them every four hours and of the regularity of sleeping and bowel movements within a generally strict regimen: this regimen was supposed to build character by avoiding cuddling and other attention.

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  • Watson, John B. Psychological Care of Infant and Child. London: Allen & Unwin, 1928.

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    Watson was a leading figure of the behaviorist school of psychology. Based on his work at Johns Hopkins in the area of fear and conditioning, Watson warned against the dangers of mothers providing too much love and affection and proposed the introduction of institutional methods and attitudes into the home.

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1930–1950

While child psychologists were still key figures in the production of advice literature in the 1930s, and the importance of sleeping and feeding patterns were still stressed (Stopes 1939), there was a growing strand of dissenting opinion which criticized behaviorism. The psychologist turned journalist Adams 1934 attacked standardization. Aldrich and Aldrich 1938 stresses the important role parents played in helping babies follow their “developmental plan.” Gessell and Ilg 1943 popularized a developmental approach that recognized the power of biology in the child’s physical and psychosocial growth. Influenced by psychoanalysis, authors started to argue that rather than molding children to adults’ desires, parents needed to be more sensitive to the needs of the child. Isaacs 1929 came to education with a background in philosophy and psychology and had trained and practiced as a psychoanalyst; Ribble 1943 had attended the Vienna Psychoanalytic Institute; and Spock 1946 had studied at the New York Psychoanalytic Institute after receiving his medical degree.

  • Adams, Grace. Your Child is Normal: The Psychology of Young Children. New York: Covici-Friede, 1934.

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    Critiqued the new morality based on normality that the “American craze for standardization has given us.” Based on her observations during her work with children, Your Child is Normal was designed to counter the dominant discourse of scientific management and reassert the values of the natural home.

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  • Aldrich, Anderson, and Mary Aldrich. Babies are Human Beings. New York: Macmillan, 1938.

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    Represented the amalgam of two dominant themes in 1930s child development: the increasing knowledge about growth and behavior and the reaffirmation of natural human relations within the family. The Aldrichs suggested that infants have a “developmental plan” that parents needed to study, but they also challenged behaviorist ideas.

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  • Gessell, Arnold, and Francis L. Ilg. Infant and Child Care in the Culture of Today. New York: Harper, 1943.

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    Gessell was an influential figure in the field of child development from the 1920s through his research on developmental milestones. Rejecting both laissez-faire parenting and the kind of authoritarian parenting advocated by behaviorists such as Watson, the book endeavored to find a middle ground between the two.

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  • Isaacs, Susan. The Nursery Years. London: George Routledge, 1929.

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    Isaacs was a British psychologist and educationalist known for the accessibility of her work to practitioners and parents. Between 1924 and 1927 she was head of the experimental Malting House School, and it was her observations of the children in the school that formed the basis of The Nursery Years.

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  • Ribble, Margaret. The Rights of Infants: Early Psychological Needs and Their Satisfaction. New York: Columbia University Press, 1943.

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    After training with Anna Freud, Ribble studied the normal and abnormal psychology of nursing infants and its decisive role on development. Informed by this work, she published The Rights of Infants, which was reprinted six times in two years. In it, Ribble championed close physical contact between mother and child.

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  • Spock, Benjamin. Commonsense Book of Baby and Child Care. New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1946.

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    Spock was not the only pediatrician to challenge the regimented approach to childcare of earlier experts, but his manual was novel in its completeness, price, and appeal to its audience. It became one of best-selling works of non-fiction of all time, although the content has substantially changed with subsequent editions.

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  • Stopes, Marie. Your Baby’s First Year. London: Putnam, 1939.

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    Famous for her marriage manual Married Love (1918) and pioneering work in the field of family planning, Your Baby’s First Year was Stopes’s childcare manual. She was an enthusiastic advocate of babies spending time outdoors, expected them to sleep for long periods, and, interestingly, was a proponent of goat’s milk.

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1950–1980

During the postwar decades efforts at reconstruction and stabilizing the family after the war led to a new focus on domesticity for both men and women and togetherness became a model of ideal family life. Bowlby 1953 and Winnicott 1957 stressed the importance of a mother-child relationship for children’s healthy development. Later expert studies such as Jolly 1975 and Leach 1977 continued to argue that mothers needed to be led by their babies’ demands, while Leidloff 1975 offered a new justification for mothers devoting themselves to their infants arguing that in order to achieve optimal physical, mental and emotional development, human beings babies needed to be continually in their mothers’ presence. The influence of Jean Piaget was also at work with Brazelton 1969 tracking development stages in detail and Pulaski 1978 explaining babies’ development in Piaget’s terms. However not all experts of the period followed the new child-center approach, with Illingworth and Illingworth 1954 favoring a more hands-off attitude toward the baby and his desires.

  • Bowlby, John. Child Care and the Growth of Love. London: Penguin, 1953.

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    A popular penguin edition of Bowlby’s report on the mental health of homeless children in postwar Europe, Maternal Care and Mental Health (1951). An instant best seller, the book’s principal conclusion was that a child is deprived if removed from his or her mother’s care for any reason.

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  • Brazelton, T. Berry. Infants and Mothers: Differences in Development. New York: Delacorte, 1969.

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    Brazelton is an American pediatrician who introduced the Brazelton Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scale to assess newborns’ emotional well-being and individual differences. In Infants and Mothers he describes three different kinds of babies: “quiet,” “active,” and “middle of the road,” explaining parents need to learn to adjust to these “constitutional” differences.

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  • Illingworth, Ronald, and Cynthia Illingworth. Babies and Young Children: Feeding, Management and Care. London: Churchill, 1954.

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    A husband and wife team of pediatricians, the Illingworths’ pediatric textbooks were key texts in the 1950s. Their books for parents applied a “commonsense” approach informed by their medical practice and parental experience. Babies and Young Children considered the physical and psychological problems of raising young children and offered solutions.

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  • Jolly, Hugh. Book of Child Care. London: Allen & Unwin, 1975.

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    Offering a comprehensive medical guide to childcare, and revised over several subsequent editions, the book included sections “The Healthy Child” and “The Sick Child.” Jolly told parents the early years of life were vital in laying down an individual’s future and parents needed to undertake their responsibilities with care.

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  • Leach, Penelope. Baby and Child. London: Michael Joseph, 1977.

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    Sold over two million copies as of the early 21st century. Leach argues that the book’s novelty lies in that it was written from the baby and child’s perspective. An advocate of demand feeding she stated that following a routine was futile as it made caring for infants harder.

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  • Leidloff, Jean. The Continuum Concept. London: Duckworth, 1975.

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    Inspired by the Yequana people of the Venezualan jungle, in the book Leidloff argues that babies should be continuously carried by their mothers until such time as they are able to crawl away. The book was later translated into more than two-dozen languages, selling hundreds of thousands of copies.

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  • Pulaski, Mary Ann Spencer. Your Baby’s Mind and how it Grows. Westport, CT; London: Greenwood, 1978.

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    The book, which synthesizes Piaget’s thoughts about cognitive development and language acquisition, is a guide to the intellectual development infants up to age three. Pulaski, a children’s psychologist, also gave practical suggestions about the ways in which children’s minds could be stimulated by the appropriate play and toys.

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  • Winnicott, D. W. The Child, The Family and the Outside World. London: Tavistock, 1957.

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    A pediatrician and psychoanalyst, Winnicott’s views were extremely influential during the 1940s and 1950s through his radio broadcasts and in the press. Based on his broadcast talks, the book forms a series of essays covering aspects of the relationship between mother and infant, parent and child, and child and school.

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1980–2005

Divisions in approaches to childrearing returned to the fore in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. On the one hand there has been the rise of “attachment parenting.” Its leading proponents are Sears and Sears 1993. Influenced by Bowlby’s theories of attachment, they advise mothers to breastfeed for as long as both the mother and child enjoy the relationship; respond promptly to their baby’s cries; be led by the baby’s preferences in sleeping arrangements (including sleeping with the baby); and to carry the baby in a sling ensuring physical contact. This school emphasizes the earliest period of a child’s life as the most fundamental with recent research in neuroscience (Sunderland 2006) being used to support their views. On the other hand, Ford 1999 has argued in favor of the return of routine and a more structured approach to childcare. In the middle ground lies the approach of Hogg and Blau 2001. Childcare advice in the late 20th and early 21st century has also become big business, encouraged by the Internet and new media, and exemplified in Murkhoff, et al. 1989 and the What to Expect Foundation. There has also been a reaction against this trend, however, with the environmental movement (Solomon 1990), arguing for the need for a less consumerist approach.

  • Ford, Gina. The Contented Little Baby Book. London: Vermillion, 1999.

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    One of the most popular authors of childcare literature of the early 21st century, Ford stresses the need for a daily routine for both the baby and its parents. The book offers detailed instructions on establishing feeding and sleeping routines in babies from the age of two or three weeks.

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  • Hogg, Tracy, and Melinda Blau. Secrets of the Baby Whisperer: How to Calm, Connect and Communicate with Your Baby. London: Vermillion, 2001.

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    Trained in Britain as a nurse and midwife, Hogg became famous in the United States as a maternity nurse and childcare expert. In her best-selling book she advocates a middle-way between being demand-led and routine, based on her E.A.S.Y. plan (Eat, Activity, Sleep, Your time).

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  • Murkhoff, Heidi, Arlene Eisenberg, and Sandee Hathaway. What to Expect the First Year. New York: Workman, 1989.

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    What to Expect the First Year was a best-selling follow-up to the equally popular What to Expect When You’re Expecting. The book has sold millions of copies over several editions. It is a comprehensive 800-page reference book with detailed information on a range of subjects.

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  • Sears, Bill, and Martha Sears. The Baby Book: Everything You Need to Know about Your Baby—From Birth to Age Two. Boston: Little, Brown, 1993.

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    Bill and Martha Sears, a pediatrician and nurse and the parents of eight children, are among the leading proponents of attachment parenting: and the book offers a comprehensive and reassuring guide to this approach. The book is still in print, with the 2005 edition being co-authored with two of their sons.

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  • Solomon, Juliet. Green Parenting. London: Optima, 1990.

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    Reflecting the growing green agenda of the late 20th century, Green Parenting takes a strong moral stand against the reckless consumerism and materialism that Solomon views as hallmarks of the age. It has sections on infants, school-age and teenage children, DIY, entertainment, making and mending, and green eating habits.

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  • Sunderland, Margot. The Science of Parenting: Practical Guidance on Sleep Crying Play and Building Emotional Wellbeing for Life. London: Dorling Kindersley, 2006.

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    The book is the result of Sutherland’s research into the “neuroscience of parent-child interactions” and the long-term effects of adult-child interaction on the developing brain. Sutherland explains that parents’ treatment of their babies determines how their brains are activated and makes all the difference to emotional, creative, and intellectual development.

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Parents and Children in the English-Speaking World

Analyses of childcare advice literature need to be placed within the context of accounts of childhood and the parent-child relationship more broadly. The pioneering work in this field was Centuries of Childhood by the French social historian Ariès (Ariès 1962). Heywood 2001 offers an overall survey of the field of the history of childhood, and Cunningham 2006 presents a chronological history of the experience of children in Britain during the past 1,500 years. Pollock 1987 examines the relationship between parents and children in Britain and the United States, arguing that parents in the past showed deep concern for their children’s welfare. Pooley 2010 looks at the relationship between child health and parental advice literature in late-19th-century England. Histories of parents have often been histories of mothers: Apple 2006 looks at American motherhood, and Davis 2012 studies motherhood in England. However, King 2012 turns its attention to fatherhood.

  • Apple, Rima. Perfect Motherhood: Science and Childrearing in America. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2006.

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    Traces the evolution of scientific advice to American mothers. Using a range of sources including historical documents, manuals, magazines, personal letters, and illustrations the book reviews the relationship between women as mothers, scientific and technological advances, and the role of the “expert” in childrearing.

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  • Ariès, Philippe. Centuries of Childhood. London: J. Cape, 1962.

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    Argues that attitudes toward children have changed over time, and with these changing attitudes a new concept developed: childhood. Ariès suggests that before the early modern period childhood as an idea did not exist. The book was enormously influential, even though the reliability of the author’s methods and sources was questioned.

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  • Cunningham, Hugh. The Invention of Childhood. London: BBC, 2006.

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    Details the lives of British children from Anglo-Saxon times to the present. Cunningham draws on sources including diaries, autobiographies, paintings, photographs, and letters to explore how children’s lives were shaped by gender, geography, and ethnicity; and he relates children’s lives to larger events in national and international history.

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  • Davis, Angela. Modern Motherhood: Women and Family In England, 1945–2000. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2012.

    DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719084553.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Based on oral history interviews, the book examines women’s experiences of motherhood in England between 1945 and 2000. It forms a thematic study looking at aspects of mothers’ lives including education, health care, and work, and includes a chapter on the relationship between mothers and childcare experts.

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  • Heywood, Colin. A History of Childhood: Children and Childhood in the West from Medieval to Modern Times. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2001.

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    Explores the changing experiences and perceptions of childhood from the early Middle Ages to the 20th century. He argues that while material conditions for children have generally improved, the business of preparing for adulthood has become more complicated, as the young face a bewildering array of choices and expectations.

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  • King, Laura. “Hidden Fathers? The Significance of Fatherhood in Mid-twentieth-century Britain.” Contemporary British History 26 (2012): 25–46.

    DOI: 10.1080/13619462.2012.656385Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    King uses evidence from the press and social research to investigate the “intensification” of fatherhood in mid-20th-century Britain, examining both representations of fatherhood and lived experiences. She argues that fathers as historical actors have been marginalized, concluding that fatherhood was invested with a greater significance than has previously been recognized.

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  • Pollock, Linda. A Lasting Relationship: Parents and Children over Three Centuries. London: Fourth Estate, 1987.

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    Using letters and selections from diaries and autobiographies, Pollock examines the parent-child relationship during the period between 1600 and 1900 in England and the United States. The book covers a number of subjects, including pregnancy, infancy, discipline, and education. Throughout, Pollock stresses the continuity in parenting attitudes and practices.

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  • Pooley, Sian. “‘All We Parents Want is that Our Children’s Health and Lives Should be Regarded’: Child Health and Parental Concern in England, c. 1860–1910.” Social History of Medicine 23 (2010): 528–548.

    DOI: 10.1093/shm/hkq008Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Explores the interaction between childrearing literature and parents’ experiences in England during the second half of the 19th century. She analyzes the thirteen most re-printed manuals of the period in order to identify contentious issues and the ways advice was revised across the period.

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Manuals in the Non-English-Speaking World

While this article has focused on the advice manuals that were popular in the English-speaking world, there were parallel trends at work in the development of childcare literature beyond this boundary and, of course, ideas were transmitted across national borders. Gacon-Dufour and Jeanne 1826, born in Paris in 1753, was one of the foremost home economists of the Restoration. Her Manuel complet was an example of the 19th-century concern with a woman’s role as the educator of young children, as well as indicating the legacy of Rousseau’s Emile. Born in Geneva in 1766, de Saussure (de Saussure 1828–1832) reflected the concern with religious education that was still at work in the first half of the 19th century. Key 1900 was a Swedish writer on educational subjects who gained an international reputation. In Barnets århundrade she put forward a comprehensive view on education, discussed the relations between parents and children, gave a description of an ideal home, and stressed the importance of exposing children to the “realities” of each day. Meir and Rivkai 1933–1934 and Haarer 1936 demonstrate how childcare advice often had an ideological agenda. Nikitin and Nikitina 1979 and Etxebarría and Bustos 2009 are examples of how the economic and political climate in which advice literature is written shapes its authors’ recommendations, for example in respect to working mothers.

  • de Saussure, Albertine Necker. L’Education Progressive. Paris: A. Sautelat, 1828–1832.

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    De Saussure’s principal work, L’Education Progressive, was a long and influential study on educational theory. The first two volumes dealt with general education. The third volume is devoted to the education of women. The book was also popular in translation in Britain and North America known as Progressive Education.

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  • Etxebarría, Lucía, and Goyo Bustos. El club de las malas madres. Madrid: Ediciones Martínez Roca, 2009.

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    A first-person narrative about contemporary Spanish motherhood written by Etxebarría, a well-known Spanish author and a mother, and Bustos, a man with no children who writes about his experiences as a teacher. It is structured around themed chapters, such as being a mother and infancy.

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  • Gacon-Dufour, Marie, and Armande Jeanne. Manuel complet de la maîtresse de maison, et de la parfait ménagère, ou Guide pratique pour la gestion d’une maison à la ville et à la campagne, contenant les moyens d’y maintenir le bon ordre et d’y établir l’abondance, de soigner les enfans, de conserver les substances alimentaires, etc. Paris: Roret, 1826.

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    Argues that primary education of the child was of utmost importance and that it belonged to women. She told mothers love and devotion to their infants would prevent later bitterness of character, and they were also advised to free the child’s body from both natural and artificial constraints.

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  • Haarer, Johanna. Die deutsche Mutter und ihr erstes Kind. Munich: J. F. Lehmanns, 1936.

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    Haarer was an Austrian physician and the author of widely circulated educational guides closely linked to the ideology of National Socialism. Die deutsche Mutter continued to be published in a revised form after 1945 and by 1987 the publication had reached a total circulation of about 1.2 million.

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  • Key, Ellen. Barnets århundrade, I-II. Stockholm: Bonnier, 1900.

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    Key was a Swedish writer on educational subjects and an early advocate of a child-centered approach to education and parenting. She was best known for her book on education, Barnets århundrade, which was translated in English in 1909 as The Century of the Child and became an international best seller.

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  • Meir, Y., and A. Rivkai. HaEm V HaYeled. Tel Aviv: Kupat Holim, 1933–1934.

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    The manual was the first parental guidance and instruction book published in Hebrew for Jewish parents in pre-state Israel. It addressed the physical and psychological care of the mother and child. The co-editors Meir and Ravkai gathered hundreds of parental guidance articles, alongside proverbs, prose, and photographs.

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  • Nikitin, B. P., and L. A. Nikitina. My i nashi deti. Moscow: Molodaia gvardiia, 1979.

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    The first Soviet childrearing manual written by laypeople rather than specialists. Popular with middle-class Russian parents, this system combined conventional pedagogical beliefs and survival strategies devised by full-time working parents in order to minimize the workload of caring for several children.

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Childcare outside the English-Speaking World

This selection of studies of childcare outside the English-speaking world demonstrates the range of methodologies that can be employed in the study of childcare and the variety of childcare practices they can uncover. Popiel 2004 examines advice literature in late-18th- and early-19th-century France; Stoler-Liss 2003 looks at Israeli parents’ manuals in the middle decades of the 20th century; Chernyaeva 2010 analyzes manuals in post-Stalinist Russia; and Bourland Ross 2011 explores books about motherhood in contemporary Spain. The essays in Gebhardt and Wischermann 2007 navigate the issue of family socialization in Germany from a highly interdisciplinary approach, and the book includes essays from historians, sociologists, and pedagogues. Seymour 1999 shows the results of the author’s two-year study of family organization and child-rearing practices in the expanding city of Bhubaneswar in India in the mid-1960s and followed the lives of 132 children and their extended families over nearly three decades. Such studies can also shed light on childcare in the English-speaking world. For example, Shwalb and Shwalb 1996 examines Japanese history and culture through the lens of childrearing practices in Japan and, by contrast, in the United States as well.

  • Bourland Ross, Catherine. “Why We Are All in the Club. El club de las malas madres.” In The Changing Spanish Family: Essays on New Views in Literature, Cinema and Theater. Edited by Tiffany Trotman, 9–23. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2011.

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    Examines contemporary Spanish motherhood literature, a genre she defines as being books authored or co-authored by mothers, written by authors who exhibit some degree of skepticism toward traditional social norms of motherhood, and that emphasize women’s obligatory emotional involvement in mothering as a source of tension.

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  • Chernyaeva, Natalia. “From Disciplined to Spontaneous Child: The Evolving Models of Childrearing in Soviet Parenting Manuals during Post-Stalinism.” In Negotiating Childhoods. Edited by Lucy Hopkins, Mark Macleod, and Wendy C. Turgeon, 79–86. Oxford: Inter-Disciplinary, 2010.

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    Through examining advice literature on child upbringing published from the demise of the Stalin regime in 1953 until the 1980s, in this study Chernyaeva explores the relationship between socioeconomic and political developments in the country during post-Stalinism and the changing popular concepts of what constituted good parenting.

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  • Gebhardt, Miriam, and Clemens Wischermann, ed. Familiensozialisation seit 1933: Verhandlungen über Kontinuität. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2007.

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    Looks at the issue of family socialization in Germany since 1933. It includes chapters by Gudrun Brockhaus on the manuals of Johanna Haarer; Markus Höffer-Mehlmer on parental advice literature in East and West Germany after 1945; and Miriam Gebhardt on Johanna Haarer and Benjamin Spock.

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  • Popiel, Jennifer J. “Making Mothers: The Advice Genre and the Domestic Ideal, 1760–1830.” Journal of Family History 29 (2004): 339–350.

    DOI: 10.1177/0363199004268520Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Examining the ideal French mother of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Popiel argues that women, unlike men, were seen as uniquely capable of giving young children the love and attention that they needed to become moral adults. Advice manuals for mothers taught women how to model proper behaviors for children.

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  • Seymour, Susan Christine. Women, Family, and Child Care in India: A World in Transition. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

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    Offers in-depth, longitudinal study of twenty-four Hindu families, of different caste and class groups, who reside in the expanding city of Bhubaneswar. Seymour contrasts parental attitudes toward children in the developed world with those in Bhubaneswar, where childcare is viewed as part of the entire household activity.

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  • Shwalb, David W., and Barbara J. Shwalb. Japanese Childrearing: Two Generations of Scholarship. London: Guildford, 1996.

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    A collection of essays edited by David and Barbara Shwalb about Japanese history and culture seen through the lenses of childrearing practices. The book couples studies by influential senior scholars with reaction papers by younger-generation researchers how theories and methodology in the field have evolved over time.

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  • Stoler-Liss, Sachlav. “‘Mothers Birth the Nation’: The Social Construction of Zionist Motherhood in Wartime in Israeli Parents’ Manuals.” Nashim: A Journal of Jewish Women’s Studies and Gender Issues 6 (2003): 104–118.

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    Analyzes Israeli parents’ manuals from the 1920s to the 1950s to consider their role in the Israeli nation-building process. She argues women embraced their duty as “mothers of the nation” because they were subjected to a program of education, indoctrination, and regulation that formed the subtext of the advice.

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Childcare in Comparative Perspective

Studies of childcare in comparative perspective have proved a useful way of examining similarities and differences across time and space. Mead and Wolfenstein 1955 is an early attempt to provide a comprehensive study of the origins of culture in infant- and child- rearing practices. Examples of more recent comparative studies are Rubin and Chung 2006 and Tudge 2008. Comparative approaches have enabled scholars to challenge assumptions about parenting practices. In his study of parent-child relationships in pre-industrial Europe, Wilson 1984 critiqued the idea that parents in pre-industrial societies are not attached to their children arguing that “given the objective circumstances in which women of the Ancien Régime in Europe lived, one is struck not so much by their callousness toward or neglect of their offspring as by their patient devotion” (p. 198). Writers have also offered innovative ways of approaching the subject: for example, DeLoache and Gottlieb 2000 is a series of fictional “manuals” of childrearing practices from seven different societies, and Grille 2005 has surveyed past and present practices to offer a blueprint for future parents.

  • DeLoache, Judy S., and Alma Gottlieb. A World of Babies: Imagined Childcare Guides for Seven Societies. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

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    Each chapter is written in the style of a childcare manual from one of seven societies: the Puritans of 17th-century Massachusetts; the contemporary societies of the Beng of the Ivory Coast; the Balinese of Indonesia; Muslim villagers in Turkey; the Warlpriri; the Fulani; and the Ifaluk people.

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  • Grille, Robin. Parenting for a Peaceful World. New South Wales, Australia: Longueville Media, 2005.

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    Grille, an Australian psychologist and psychotherapist, considers how childrearing customs have shaped societies and major world events. He includes a short history of childrearing, discusses the psychological impact that rearing had on the child and community, and offers a commentary on current childrearing practices.

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  • Mead, Margaret, and Martha Wolfenstein, ed. Childhood in Contemporary Cultures. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1955.

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    Includes fourteen chapters by the anthropologist Mead, psychoanalyst Wolfenstein, and others, which cover French, German, Balinese, Chinese, American, Jewish, Czech, Italian, Syrian, British, and Soviet culture. It offered an early demonstration that childhood did not exist in a finite and identifiable form but was culturally constructed.

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  • Rubin, Kenneth H., and Ock Boon Chung, ed. Parenting Beliefs, Behaviors, and Parent-Child Relations: A Cross-Cultural Perspective. New York: Psychology Press, 2006.

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    Looks at parenting from a cultural and cross-cultural perspective, focusing on Asia, Europe, and North America. The editors, Rubin and Chung, state that the book aims to show how parents’ thoughts about childrearing and the ways in which they interact with their children are culturally determined.

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  • Tudge, Jonathan. The Everyday Lives of Young Children Culture, Class, and Child Rearing in Diverse Societies. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511499890Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Based on a study of children from the United States, Russia, Estonia, Finland, Korea, Kenya, and Brazil using cultural-ecological theory. Tudge posits that the complex and inextricable relationship between culture and human development can be understood through a dedicated focus on everyday activities and interactions.

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  • Wilson, Stephen. “The Myth of Motherhood a Myth: The Historical View of European Child-rearing.” Social History 9 (1984): 181–198.

    DOI: 10.1080/03071028408567590Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Offers a challenge to the view that before the 18th century, parents did not love their children. Through examining childrearing practices in pre-industrial Europe, Wilson argues that such an explanation of childrearing in the past is a partial and misleading view of mothers of the Ancien Régime.

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