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Raising America: Experts, Parents, and a Century of Advice About Children 1st Edition

3.8 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0375401206
ISBN-10: 0375401202
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Rather than a social history of how Americans have raised their children, Hulbert (The Interior Castle: The Art and Life of Jean Stafford) offers an intellectual history of how children and parents have been studied in modern America. Here is the story of how Drs. Hall and Holt begat Drs. Gesell and Watson, who begat Dr. Spock and even Dr. Seuss, and how they in turn spawned an entire mini-industry of parenting experts. In spite of changes in terms or variations in thematic concerns, each generation of "experts" has been consistently bipolar, Hulbert finds: the "hard," parent-centered theorists fond of authority and discipline versus the "soft," child-centered theorists preaching love, bonding and liberty. With a flair for wordplay (paraphrasing Gesell's advice to parents to "walk-and speak-ever so softly, and carry a big chart") and a taste for irony (almost all the experts suffered from "mother's boy syndrome"), Hulbert documents the upbringings of the experts themselves, the fluctuations in their advice and the details of their downfalls. While few of these experts were as scientific as they claimed, they probably have managed to further parents' understanding of child development somewhat, admits Hulbert. The irony here-or perhaps it's a saving grace-is that parents, while eager for advice, rarely seem to have used it. This provocative and informative study is a model of lay scholarship. 15 photos.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Why a century of advice has failed.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (April 29, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375401202
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375401206
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.4 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,793,830 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Suzanne Amara VINE VOICE on February 1, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Perhaps my very mixed feelings about this book came from unmet expectations. I thought it would be a book about the history of the actual advise given American parents---how advise about such issues as toilet training, sleep and eating have changed over the years, and how this affected parents. However, the book was actually much more about the experts themselves---THEIR childhoods, education, marital problems, academic careers, etc. This might be interesting to some, but it wasn't to me for the most part. The book had a feel of an insider sort of expose---written for those in the academic world. Children were mentioned very little, except if they happened to be the children of the experts themselves. There was much delving into the psychological history of each expert, but I found that at times I had a very vague idea what the experts actually advised! For example, Hall, an early expert, had his life opened for scrutiny, but I would be hard pressed to explain what his child care views were. The writing was scholary and confident, but in no way personal---the author's children or her own views are not mentioned. So I guess I would just advice that you know what you want to read about before buying this book---It might be just what you are looking for, but it might be far from what you are looking for.
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Format: Hardcover
After about 3 minutes of hearing Hulbert talk about the history of parenting advice this century on NPR, I knew I needed this book. I am in a peculiar position as a Parent Coach/Instructor and as a skeptic. Among other things I teach a very specific approach to parenting based on Love and Logic (See my review of Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood). Yet while I teach a specific approach to helping parents make their lives a bit easier, I am also a skeptic at heart and therefore strive to examine all approaches to parenting with a critical eye, allowing the evidence to point where it may.
With painstaking detail and with considerable wit, Hulbert takes us through the century and helps us to see that parents have been anxious about how their kids would turn out for decades. She also shows that they frequently turn to the experts for guidance; experts who have an annoying habit of contradicting one another. Throughout the centry there has always been a "hard" approach to parenting advocated as well as a "soft" approach advocated usually by two separate experts. Many experts have, and continue to make exaggerated claims about the results of taking their advice. James Watson the famous behaviorist was the paragon of this sort of wild claim, deciding based on a few experiments with white furry things and a scared infant that he knew the secrets to take any sort of child and raise them for a career of his selection and with the character of his choice.
A century later, much is the same though there are some important differences. We continue to have an array of voices with a good deal of overlap as well as with a number of contradictions. The difference now perhaps is that there are approaches all along the continuum from soft to hard, rather than one or two at either end.
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By A Customer on May 30, 2003
Format: Hardcover
We have all been told how to feed a baby (on demand -- or by rigid schedule); how to ensure that an infant sleeps (let 'em cry it out -- or let the the baby sleep in your bed); how to discipline toddlers (distract them -- or put them in time out); and how to talk with and listen to our children. If you've ever asked "Where are these `experts' coming from?" read Ann Hulbert's Raising America.
Hulbert provides interesting biographical anecedotes about the prominent child-rearing theorists of this century and places them in the social and political climate of their time. Her pen is wise, graceful and truly humorous.
While I hesitate to give advice -- in this century inundated with it -- I recommend that you put aside for a while Spock, Brazelton, Leach and Greenspan. Instead, settle down with Raising America -- a thoroughly information-packed, thought-provoking read.
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Format: Hardcover
Breast or bottle? Co-sleeping or crib sleeping? Cry-it-out or rock to sleep? To spank or not to spank? New parents, eager to do what's best for their children, face endless decisions about the "right way" to raise their children. A quick glance through the parenting shelves at the local bookstore reveals that there is no lack of books weighing in on just about every current controversy, from pretty much every conceivable point of view. In just over a century, the study and popularization of child development has burgeoned from a handful of specialists to a plethora of experts, each with a particular ax to grind. How this happened is the focus of RAISING AMERICA, Ann Hulbert's ambitious history of twentieth-century parenting experts and expertise.
Hulbert structures her history around five key parenting and family conferences, from 1899's National Congress of Mothers to 1997's Conference on Early Childhood Development and Learning, pausing in each case to reflect on the state of parenting philosophies and advice at the time. To further illustrate the evolution of expert advice on children, she profiles two key experts in each generation, each of whom falls into a distinct "camp." One exemplifies "child-centered" or "soft" parenting, a proponent of letting "nature take its course in childhood" and an advocate of parent-child bonding. The other, "parent-centered" expert instead advises strict discipline, believing in the power of parental nurture to shape child behavior for good or ill.
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