Parenting isn't the same now as it was for your parents or grandparents. Long before the Internet brought the world to kids' fingertips and parents became known as "helicopters," raising a child was a more restrictive process that often included stereotypical roles. During the 1950s, parents were more trusting, yet less permissive with their children and women took on the primary care-giving activities
Mothers as Care-Givers
As of 2011, roughly one-third of fathers who have working wives engage in regular child care, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In the 1950s, the trend towards dads as care-givers hadn't even begun to take shape. With only 34 percent of all women in the workforce, moms were the primary caregivers during the 50s. Daily care activities, discipline and communication with children was the woman's job. In contrast, the man was the "breadwinner." This left the domestic tasks to the wife-mother. Although some mothers did work outside of the home, the job of parenting fell much more unequally on their shoulders than it does for modern day moms and dads. A 50-year study of Swedish families showed that from 1958 to 2011, parenting roles changed significantly, shifting to more equal parenting, according to the Journal of Marriage and Family.
Trustful Parenting Practices
A trustful parent doesn't hover over her child, make decisions for her or second-guess her child's ability to act independently. During the 1950s, there was an upswing in trustful parenting. During this time, parents were more likely to allow their children to explore without restrictions. For example, a grade school-aged child may have walked to school by herself or gone out to play in the neighborhood on the weekends with no adult supervision. Parents trusted their children to keep themselves safe, instead of hovering over them in a protective manner. That's not to say that children in any decade don't need supervision. But, in the 1950s, the parents were more likely to allow little freedoms such as riding a bike to a friend's house across town or playing at the park without mom or dad present.
Although the name "authoritarian" wasn't used in the 1950s, the style was. Authoritarian parenting methods include high levels of discipline, direction and structure, according to the Youth Development Initiative of the Texas A&M System. Even though the parents of the 50s were trustful when it came to providing independence-oriented freedoms, they were more likely than modern moms and dads to dictate and maintain the rules. Instead of an egalitarian family style in which everyone gets a vote, parents during this time were directive. For example, instead of talking out a teen's curfew, the 1950s parent would have given his decision and made it final.
Discipline and Punishment
Physical punishments such as spanking were common forms of discipline during this time, according to the Center for Effective Discipline. Spanking a child was often seen as an effective and acceptable form of discipline in the 50s, though its use has declined in the decades since, notes the American Psychological Association. While spanking did serve to stop the child's problem behavior momentarily, modern-day research shows parents that it is not an appropriate method.
- Psychology Today: Why Have Trustful Parenting and Children's Freedom Declined?
- Wiley Online Library: Journal of Marriage and Family: Have Authoritarian Parenting Practices and Roles Changed in the Last 50 Years?
- United States Census Bureau: One-Third of Fathers with Working Wives Regularly Care for Their Children, Census Bureau Reports
- Texas A&M: Youth Development Iniriative: Parenting Styles
- The Center for Effective Discipline: Spanking: Facts and Fiction
- American Psychological Association: The Case Against Spanking
- Child Development Perspectives: Spanking and Child Development: We Know Enough Now to Stop Hitting Our Children
- Photo Credit Image Source/Digital Vision/Getty Images
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