PERSPECTIVES ON THE PAST
Transcript of Audio Clip
Jerry H. Bentley, University of Hawai'i
History is a constantly changing field of study. And since family life has only become a focus of historical study fairly recently, family history is even more in flux than most other fields of historical inquiry.
So, there are some historians who believe, for example, that families have treated their children basically the same way throughout the ages. That parents always love their children and indulge them until they join the adult world.
Meanwhile, however, another school of historians has argued that European childhood underwent dramatic change over time, that pre-modern children basically were miniature adults, whose parents treated them as adults and made no effort to shield them from all of the difficulties and even the horrors of adult life.
According to this view, it was only in the 17th, maybe 18th century that society began to recognize childhood as a distinctive stage of an individual's development and began to nurture children with an eye toward fostering their development into healthy and happy adults.