Anxious Parents: A History of Modern Childrearing in America

The cover of Peter Stearns’s book gets your attention. It portrays an iconic mid-20th-century television mother who seems either to be gripped by a migraine or on the threshold of an “I’m losing my mind” scream. But this is not another in the long list of advice-to-parents literature; rather, it explores what such literature says about the past century’s attitudes toward parenting. Stearns contends that parents are deeply influenced by popular trends in the advice-giving industry—from Skinner/Watson behaviorism to Parenting magazine, Dr. Spock and T. Berry Brazelton.

 

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