The history of child-rearing practices was characterized by radical vacillations between a positive and nurturing concept and a negative and suppressive perspective of children. Its evolution was inextricably interwoven with the society's cultural concept of childhood. For example, according to Aries (1962), children were initially considered to be miniature versions of adults in medieval society; thus, they were initiated into the world of adult functions once they turned six. However, in the later eras, children were regarded as beings that were distinguished from adults. While the end of the Renaissance began with the brutal oppression of children, the 1970s celebrated and cultivated the natural child. This paper documents the changes in perspectives and practices of child rearing from 1600 to 1970s.
By the end of the Renaissance with the dominance of Puritanism, children were regarded as evil and ignorant beings that needed to be taught the correct path and restrained from their natural tendencies to commit sinful acts. This negative perception of children justified parents' harsh and brutal treatment of children. Thomas Hobbes' belief that all human beings are born with a self-serving character further promoted the negative conception of children. According to Hobbes, without the law and order imposed by a government, human beings are liable to destroy one another in pursuit of their own selfish desires (cited in Hinnant, 1977). In this Hobbesian world, children in all social classes were neglected and brutally abused by their parents. In his collection of
psychohistories, de Mause (1972) did not find a single instance in which the child was not physically battered by their parents before 1690.
However, the age of Enlightenment led to the emergence of intellectual figures who challenged the religious and Hobbesian perspectives about children. One of these figures was John Locke. Locke analogized newborn ...