The Development of Childhood Throughout History Essay

3065 Words 13 Pages
Throughout the history of childhood development poor social and economic conditions contributed to the many hardships and poor treatment of children. During the early Middle Ages the "paternalist" family concept evolved and the father had authority and control over family matters including the welfare and safety of his wife and children. Discipline was severe, young children both poor and wealthy were subjected to strict rules and regulations and often beaten if disobedient. Children took on the responsibilities of adults at an early age, sharing in the work of siblings and parents. Girls from affluent families were educated at home and married in their teens. Some males were educated at a monastery and others became apprentices to …show more content…
(Siegel 12).

During the 17th and 18th Centuries family structure began to change and there was more recognition of children's rights. Extended families were replaced with a more closely knit structure, marriage was on love and mutual commitment rather than on parental consent or economical arrangement, and parents were more concerned about the welfare of their children. Schools began to flourish, children attended school at an early age, however excessive physical discipline continued throughout educational life. "A child in that society was a second-class citizen." (Siegel 13).

During the Enlightenment period a more "humanistic view of life, freedom, family, reason and law" developed. These values had a strong impact on family structure and lifestyle. Parents demonstrated more love and affection toward children and discipline was not as rigid. Childrearing improved and the overall status of children moved to a higher level. (Siegel 14)

In the 19th Century "children began to emerge as a readily distinguishable group with independent needs and interests." Poor Laws and Chancery Courts were used to care for children in need. Poor laws gave the court power to appoint overseers to place destitute and neglected children as servants in the homes of the affluent. Chancery Courts were established to appoint guardians of orphaned children and protect their property and inheritance rights until they became of age. Under the