THE LITTLE DARLINGS: A History of Child Rearing in America by Mary Cable

THE LITTLE DARLINGS: A History of Child Rearing in America

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An intelligently written popular treatment of a surprisingly neglected subject--or not so surprisingly, given the national disrespect for children that Cable finds beneath the various growth industries devoted to the young. Paradoxically, she also maintains that since colonial times American children have been a breed apart because of the American tendency to make children a vicarious fulfillment, a rosy path to the future. Simplifying without resorting to cliche, she removes some misconceptions about Puritan approaches to bringing up little limbs of Satan: horribly severe but sexually explicit, entirely free of euphemism and condescension, and basically intended to help the child achieve an innate spiritual potential as a member of the elect. In the 18th century children's literature began to supplement (or supplant) the Bible and Foxe's Book of Martyrs; and in the 19th, parents' literature began to minister to the newly perceived inadequacies of adults awed by the responsibility of creating worthy American citizens or true products of scientific principles. The late 19th century spawned the conflict between ""permissiveness"" and ""authority""; the early 20th amplified the scientific or pseudo-scientific dimensions of both. Cable abstains from judgments about the current scene, but has little patience with the antecedents of behaviorism and the mystique of parenthood--""modern"" developments at least a century old. Her treatment is a nice blend of anecdote and intellectual history. Pleasant, sane and spirited.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1975
Publisher: Scribners