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Beyond the Century of the Child

Beyond the Century of the Child: Cultural History and Developmental Psychology

Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Beyond the Century of the Child
    Book Description:

    In 1900, Ellen Key wrote the international bestseller The Century of the Child. In this enormously influential book, she proposed that the world's children should be the central work of society during the twentieth century. Although she never thought that her "century of the child" would become a reality, in fact it had much more resonance than she could have imagined. The idea of the child as a product of a protective and coddling society has given rise to major theories and arguments since Key's time. For the past half century, the study of the child has been dominated by two towering figures, the psychologist Jean Piaget and the historian Philippe Ariès. Interest in the subject has been driven in large measure by Ariès's argument that adults failed even to have a concept of childhood before the thirteenth century, and that from the thirteenth century to the seventeenth there was an increasing "childishness" in the representations of children and an increasing separation between the adult world and that of the child. Piaget proposed that children's logic and modes of thinking are entirely different from those of adults. In the twentieth century this distance between the spheres of children and adults made possible the distinctive study of child development and also specific legislation to protect children from exploitation, abuse, and neglect. Recent students of childhood have challenged the ideas those titans promoted; they ask whether the distancing process has gone too far and has begun to reverse itself. In a series of essays, Beyond the Century of the Child considers the history of childhood from the Middle Ages to modern times, from America and Europe to China and Japan, bringing together leading psychologists and historians to question whether we unnecessarily infantilized children and unwittingly created a detrimental wall between the worlds of children and adults. Together these scholars address the question whether, a hundred years after Ellen Key wrote her international sensation, the century of the child has in fact come to an end.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0823-8
    Subjects: Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. Chapter 1 Imaging Childhood
    (pp. 1-18)
    Willem Koops

    The issues that arise concerning children, in both daily life and in a number of scientific disciplines, are characterized by an overwhelming multiplicity. Children, their behaviors, their experiences, and their relationships to other people do not comprise easy-to-identify empirical realities that quickly reveal their structures and functions or their regularities and laws. Children are rather what we adults choose to see and what we have made of them in our cultural history and society. The child seems to be primarily a product of our imagination. This is what Kessen (1979) meant with his critical essay “The American Child and Other...

  5. The History of Childhood

    • Chapter 2 The Child in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance
      (pp. 21-42)
      Barbara A. Hanawalt

      Medieval and renaissance historians have been part of the twentieth-century fashion for studying childhood, as Zuckerman points out in his conclusion to this volume. The first impulse to study children came from psychoanalysis and the general vogue of psychoanalytical history just after the mid-century. Interest in Freud and the appearance of Erik Erikson’s Young Man Luther (1962) inspired new historical biographies that included childhood influences on great men’s lives. Piaget also had a strong influence on historians, leading one historian, Charles Radding (1985), to describe the Middle Ages as growing through Piaget’s developmental stages. Philippe Ariès’s Centuries of Childhood (1960,...

    • Chapter 3 Early Modern Childhood in the Dutch Context
      (pp. 43-61)
      Els Kloek

      “Kinderen hinderen.” That is to say, children are hindrances. Young people nowadays don’t know them any more, but only a few decades ago almost all Dutchmen could tell you that these were the words of our seventeenth-century politician and poet jacob Cats (vadertje Cats). So in the seventeenth century Dutchmen still thought of their children as hindering creatures. Still? Or should we say “already”?

      On the other hand, old stories may be quoted stressing the preciousness of children. For instance, the poet Daniel Heinsius, in his collection of stories of exemplary women (1606), told the classical story of Cornelia, the...

    • Chapter 4 Patterns of Childrearing in America
      (pp. 62-81)
      Karin Calvert

      Members of any society carry within themselves working definitions of childhood, its nature, limitations, and duration. In fact numerous, even contradictory conceptions of the nature of childhood may exist simultaneously in a society, a family, even an individual. Adults may not explicitly articulate such paradigms or even consciously conceive of them as an issue, but they act on their assumptions in all their dealings with, fears for, and expectations of their children. The process of education in the broader meaning of the term is one in which children who have reached the age of reason learn to adapt themselves to...

    • Chapter 5 The Birth of the Virtual Child: A Victorian Progeny
      (pp. 82-95)
      John R. Gillis

      The Victorians taught us not only what to think about the child but also how to think with the child. They created the concept of “the child” and then used it to symbolize the meaning of life itself. People have always cared and thought about particular children, and not just their own, but it was the Victorians who constructed what James Kincaid has called that “wonderfully hollow category, able to be filled up with anyone’s overflowing emotions, not least overflowing passion” (1992, 12). And we have become even more dependent on the child as a master symbol and image, so...

    • Chapter 6 Historical Perspectives on Twentieth-Century American Childhood
      (pp. 96-111)
      Peter Stearns

      Given the number of factors that shape childhood, it is not surprising that key twentieth-century developments took a variety of directions (Elder, Modell, and Parke 1993). Prior adult roles were rethought, amid growing criticism of past repression, and some previous latitudes were also reined in, particularly for boys (Rotundo 1993; Hawes and Hiner 1982). At the same time, novel developments were complicated by the persistence of earlier patterns. Long-standing American emphasis on children’s independence and voice, amid unusual labor needs and frontier alternatives, continued to affect the experience of childhood, though in new ways. No simple model of liberation or...

    • Chapter 7 The History of Children and Youth in Japan
      (pp. 112-135)
      Hideo Kojima

      The main task of this chapter is to compare theories and practices regarding Japanese children and youth in two historical periods. Taking the time span between the seventeenth and twentieth centuries (the early modern and modern periods), when, in my view, meaningful comparison in this field can be made, I will focus on the period from 1700 to 1870 to represent non-Westernized, preindustrial Japan, and the period after 1910 to represent Westernized, industrial Japan. I will take the intervening four decades between 1870 and 1910 as a transition period during which Japan transformed itself from a feudalistic, preindustrial country to...

    • Chapter 8 Childhood, Formal Education, and Ideology in China, Then and Now
      (pp. 136-156)
      Michael Nylan

      Perceptions about childhood in imperial China tend to be a function of our perceptions about childhood in China in the modern period. Our views of modern China, however, are often colored by our fundamental orientations toward domestic and international politics, no less than by our emotional responses to a number of highly controversial issues, such as gender inequality, infanticide, and abortion. Then, too, notions of childhood in China inevitably reflect ongoing debates inside and outside China over the very nature of modernity versus tradition, capitalism versus communism, and those “Asian values” defined in explicit opposition to the “universalist” notions of...

  6. The Child in Developmental Psychology and Pedagogy

    • Chapter 9 On Infantilization and Participation: Pedagogical Lessons from the Century of the Child
      (pp. 159-182)
      Micha de Winter

      Like their counterparts in many western countries, Dutch citizens and politicians worry about the moral decay of children and youth, inspired by shocking—but scientifically disputable—measures of juvenile delinquency and nuisance appearing in the media. Many blame the family, concluding that parents have failed to impart moral education. Recently Dutch government officials asked us to advise them, therefore, on family policy. They particularly wanted to know what young people might think good family policy should be.

      To develop an answer, we asked an ethnically diverse group of twenty-four vocational school students, ages fourteen and fifteen, to interview ten classmates...

    • Chapter 10 The Nephew of an Experimentalist: Ambivalences in Developmental Thinking
      (pp. 183-203)
      Gerrit Breeuwsma

      At first sight one might be inclined toward feelings of sympathy when an important and established scientist like T. G. R. Bower has the courage to change his point of view on important matters like those mentioned above. According to the classical assumptions of developmental thinking, the newborn child was a primitive creature: an instinctive animal, with a very limited repertoire of reflexive behaviors, in almost every way dependent on the protection of his or her caretakers. Psychological development had to take place on a minimal basis of reflexive behavior, while the distance between baby and adult functioning was assumed...

    • Chapter 11 Developmental Psychology in a World of Designed Institutions
      (pp. 204-224)
      Sheldon H. White

      A designed social institution is a pattern of human activity put together by conscious and deliberate human thought, designed to serve human purposes and governed by rules of human design. The institution is designed to be a stable part of the social environment, though it generally changes over longer periods of time, being reengineered in some large or small way to fit changing circumstances and changing human needs. Examples of designed human institutions are the Society for Research in Child Development, a school, a hospital, a kindergarten, a store, a corporation, a hotel, a railroad, or a railroad station. People...

  7. Epilogue: The Millennium of Childhood That Stretches Before Us
    (pp. 225-242)
    Michael Zuckerman

    It was about time. A century was ending. A new millennium was upon us. It was a time to think about time. Time past, time to come. Where have we been? Where might we be going? And ours are studies of time. History is nothing if not a meditation on time. Developmental psychology is the one branch of psychology that pries into change over time.

    And it was about time. Considering their convergences and complementarities in sensibility and subject matter, historians and developmental psychologists should have been collaborators from the first. Both try to trace the crystallization of character. Both...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 243-248)
  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 249-274)
  10. List of Contributors
    (pp. 275-278)
  11. Index
    (pp. 279-289)