Midterm Question 2
The Roles of Advice Literature, Experts, and Child-Savers in 19th and 20th Century Childrearing.
Before the 19th century, there was a time in the United States when child abuse was completely legal, and it was acceptable for children to work long strenuous jobs with no consideration for schooling or childhood whatsoever (1). Poor children also ran rampant in the streets, stealing what they could to survive and making homes out of alleyways (1). The child-savers began to notice the deplorable conditions poor children were living and working in and started the child-savers movement in America, dedicated to improving both the living and working conditions for children. The child-savers' diverse group included experts, such as philanthropists, attorneys, physicians, educators, and social workers, as well as average middle-class women, missionaries, and charity workers who were concerned with child welfare (2). Experts printed advice literature on parent-child relations and childrearing, and developed institutions as safe environments in which poor children could escape from the negative influences of the streets (3). Child-savers also influenced several aspects of children's' lives, such as child abuse, child labor laws, and the development of the juvenile justice system. The advice literature from the time can teach us about the changes in childrearing and parent-child relations and how the strides that child-savers made in advocating children’s rights eternally changed the way parents brought up their children in the 19th and 20th centuries.
First, there is much to learn about parent-child relations and childrearing of the 19th and 20th century from reading advice literature. Before literature was printed on raising children, childrearing advice was passed around by word of mouth. Families usually lived close to extended family, and it was easy to request advice from a mother, father, or grandparents. The presence of advice literature on parent-child relations and childrearing suggests an increase in immigration, where families moved away from hometowns and away from extended family (3). An increase in educated and expert professionals in the abundance of fields related to child welfare also accounts for an increase in advice literature (3). Initially, experts produced advice literature for the wellbeing of children but others, such as ministers, soon extended advice to matters of character and morality (3). The more experts produced advice literature, the more people began to seek advice from experts (4). Physicians, for example, published an abundance of childcare manuals in order to promote themselves in the 19th century (4). Doctors and scientists popularized the belief that parents needed an expert’s medically and scientifically based opinion on any matter regarding children’s welfare, so parents abandoned traditional and instinctual means of caring and raising children (4). Parents began to...