Childcare during..., History

Authoritarian parenting styles in the 60’s – From Conformity to Rebellion

authoritarian parenting styles

Authoritarian Parenting Styles, most of the time

There were all kinds of shades of authoritarian parenting styles in the Sixties: from Dr. Spock‘s positive parenting philosophy, to the popular Donald Winnicott and experts Loise Bates Ames and Frances Ilg with TV show “Parents Ask”

The 1960’s were a time of great social change. One of the most important changes was that birth control became widely available for women, which made family planning possible. Another important change was a post-WWII society in which mothers had more time to spend with children due to modern conveniences such as the washing machine. A post-war mentality focused less on the discipline and conformity necessary for the military, and more on individuality.

At the forefront of this more positive parenting mentality was Dr. Benjamin Spock, and his 1946 book Baby and Child Care. This popular book was republished several times, The 1968 edition, published during the Viet Nam war after Spock having spoken openly against it, sold half the number of copies of previous editions.

In agreement with Dr. Spock’s less rigid philosophy was the equally popular Donald Winnicott, who began a series of BBC radio broadcasts on the subject of parenting that endured for 20 years. Although experts were moving away from strict and harsh parenting styles, they are considered today as part of authoritarian parenting styles.

Other less well-known  experts of authoritarian parenting styles of the 1960’s include authors Loise Bates Ames and Frances Ilg , who hosted a popular television show called “Parents Ask”. They also wrote a newspaper column and many educational books that focused on the stages of child development. They continued the work of their mentor, Dr. Arnold Gesell, of Yale University, founding the Gesell Institute of Child Development.

Varieties of authoritarian parenting styles

However, not everyone was in agreement with these new philosophies or that child-rearing practices should be less rigid and more focused on developing a child’s individual talents. During the 1950’s, when modern forms of birth control were being developed, the average age that parents introduced their children to solid foods went from 7 months to 7 weeks.

Classic authoritarian parenting styles

One of the leading child care “experts” responsible for this trend was Miami pediatrician Walter W. Sackett, Jr. He is a fine example for more classic authoritarian parenting styles. Authoritarian parenting involves usually high parental demand; the parents tend to demand obedience without explanation and focus on status. Corporal punishment is a common choice of punishment. Yelling is another form of discipline for authoritarian parents.

In 1962, pediatrician Walter W. Sackett Jr. published “Bringing Up Baby” in which he stated that breast milk and formula were deficient, and that babies as young as 2 days should be started on cereal. He claimed that by 10 weeks, babies could eat bacon and eggs, and even suggested giving them coffee to acclimate them to adult eating habits. Profits of companies that manufactured formula and baby food skyrocketed as a result, which today, would likely not be viewed as a coincidence.

Regarding the need for schedules, he offered the opinion that parents who didn’t impose strict schedules on their babies were unpatriotic.

“If we teach our offspring to expect everything to be provided on demand, we must admit the possibility that we are sowing the seeds of socialism.”

He also compared what he considered indulgent parents to Stalin and Hitler.

Unfortunately, according to historian Howard Markel, much of the parenting advice of the time lacked any real scientific evidence of results, first because of the ethical problems associated with experimental trials on babies, and second, that if

“there’s no drug, no procedure, there’s not likely to be funding”.

While there was profit to be had in the baby formula and baby food industries, there was no profit to be gained by learning the long-term effects of rocking versus ignoring a crying baby.

However, some still attempted to utilize the methodology of science to improve child care practices. For example, T. Berry Brazelton, author of “Infants and Mothers created the Brazelton Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scale. This scale evaluated physical and neurological responses to 28 behavioral and 18 reflex items in infants up to two months old. These items measured an infant’s autonomic, motor and social-interactive systems, as well as individual differences and level of emotional well-being. The results described the baby’s adaptive responses, strengths and potential vulnerabilities, information that was used to formulate care-giving strategies that would provide maximum benefits to the child’s development.

This was an innovative approach towards popularizing the now widely accepted view that infants are uniquely individual social beings able to affect their environments by communicating through behaviors. Children had previously been viewed as passive recipients of influences in the environment.

Mothers today have the benefit of more research as well as far more resources for information on positive parenting than mothers of the 1960’s. For example, little was known about fetal alcohol syndrome in the 60’s, and it wasn’t uncommon to see mothers-to-be enjoying a relaxing cocktail with a cigarette. Consequently, today’s mothers are also much more likely to question the source of any new “discoveries” regarding parenting than they were in the past. One thing hasn’t changed, though. Mothers still want to be the best mothers they can be for their children, and rather like the 60’s, instead of competing, they are cooperating to find the best ways to accomplish that together.

Head over here, if you want to know more about the seventies and how they brought more social change for women and the concept of Negative Motherhood.

authoritarian parenting styles

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