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Jordanova, L.J. (1985). Fantasy and History in the Study of Childhood. Free Associations, 1C(2):110-122.

(1985). Free Associations, 1C(2):110-122

Fantasy and History in the Study of Childhood

L. J. Jordanova

Dream Babies: Child Care from Locke to Spock, by Christina Hardyment, Jonathan Cape, 1983, Pp. xvii + 334, £9.95

The literature on the history of childhood is now immense. It represents a wide range of theoretical perspectives, including psychohistory, economic determinism, demography, and the study of mentalités. There are deep divisions between different schools of thought which now seem to be gathering under two principal umbrellas: the first covers those who argue that there are fundamental continuities across time and cultures with respect to parent-child relations, while the second argues that such fundamental human experiences are socially and culturally constructed, so that any expectations of continuities are inherently implausible. The first position is now in the ascendancy, bolstered by arguments derived from sociobiology (Pollock), developmental psychology (Tucker) and anthropology (Wilson). The second position, that taken by much of the pioneering work in the field, is under heavy attack on both theoretical and empirical grounds. Some of this work was undertaken within an explicitly psychoanalytic framework, and much of the criticism of it must be understood as an attack on a particular version of psychohistory and especially that associated with Lloyd de Mause and the History of Childhood Quarterly, now renamed the Journal of Psychohistory. It is perhaps ironic that the position one might expect to be associated with psychoanalysis, that there are certain universals in family dynamics, is in fact the springboard from which psychohistory has been most vigorously attacked.


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