A sea-change from the fifties and seventies

A sea-change from the fifties  
Until midway through the 20th century there tended to be a fixed way to bring up children. For various reasons that have been well documented by sociologists, this began to change from the 1950s on. For one thing, it was realised that children had been repressed and forced to behave almost like little adults. A new approach was needed. Into the vacuum came new psychological theories presented by authors like Dr Spock. It is easy now to make fun of Dr Spock because he went so far in the opposite direction, but he was doing his best to respond to what children needed. His emphasis was on listening to the child. Instead of telling children what to do it was better, he taught, to listen to them and respect them and let them develop at their own pace. One unfortunate result of the over-emphasis on listening was that there now seemed to be almost no right or wrong. The confusion that followed still affects many parents today. Quite rightly, they do not want to go back to the rigid attitudes of the past, but many of them tend to find it hard to make a stand now, or to say something is right or wrong.

All change in the seventies!  
By the seventies, some disillusion was setting in. Children seemed to need more than just being listened to: they needed guidance. So again there was a swing of the pendulum and we had the emergence of parenting courses like Dr James Dobson's, which downplayed listening a little and put more emphasis on guidance and morality. Other parenting programmes also began to emerge based on one or other school of psychology.