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Puritan Childhood in Colonial America. Historical & Cultural Context. 17 th century settled Plymouth colony Diverse cultural & religious values defined immigrant population but . . . “We are well weaned from the delicate milke of our mother countrie” – puritan leader in America

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Puritan Childhood in Colonial America

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Puritan childhood in colonial america l.jpg

Puritan Childhood in Colonial America


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Historical & Cultural Context

  • 17th century settled Plymouth colony

  • Diverse cultural & religious values defined immigrant population but . . .

    “We are well weaned from the delicate milke of our mother countrie” – puritan leader in America

  • And . . . created common culture


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Demographics

  • Ages at marriage (late teens, early 20’s)

  • Life expectancies (60-70 years)

  • High fertility rate (healthy) & low infant mortality rate (20-25%)

  • Characterized by large (& nuclear) families (7-9 children)

  • Naming reflected cultural & religious values


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Childrearing Practices

  • Childbirth & newborn care same as 17th century Europe

  • Home childbirth by midwives

  • Puritans valued breastfeeding (9 passages in bible favor it!)

  • Illegitimacy: great offense against god


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Childrearing: Transition at Age 7

  • Influenced by notion of original sin

    • Ex: Isaac watts (1715) book for children

      “That I am led to see, I can do nothing well, and whither shall a sinner flee, to save himself from hell.”

  • Obedience to the will and authority of parents

  • Church threatened children with eternal damnation


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How Parents Regarded Their Children (17th Century)

  • Referred to developmental stages & child’s play

  • 7% of diarists mentioned child’s sinful nature (out of concern for child!)

  • Three childrearing modes:

    • Evangelical

    • Moderate

    • Genteel


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How Parents Regarded the Parental Role (17th century)

  • Same behavior could be result of different attitude

  • Protective function

  • Discipline

  • Advising

  • Training


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A day in the life of children . . .

  • Farm work for boys beginning at age 5

  • Girls helped with spinning/sewing

  • Punished for laughing on the Sabbath day

  • Running, whistling, humming considered sinful any day

  • Parents developed “Sunday toys”


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Education

  • Dame schools: 1628, form of daycare

  • Public school: required by law (except RI) and free

  • Taxation of parents


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