Experts and childcare ‘bibles’: mothers and advice literature

Angela Davis

in Modern Motherhood

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print February 2012 | ISBN: 9780719084553
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781702109 | DOI:
Experts and childcare ‘bibles’: mothers and advice literature

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  • Modern History (1700 to 1945)


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The chapter examines how ideas of the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ mother were conveyed to women through the writings of childcare experts. It considers the work of principal authorities on child development who were popular from the 1940s to 1990s including Frederick Truby King, John Bowlby, Donald Winnicott, Benjamin Spock, Penelope Leach and Gina Ford. Literature on childcare abounded throughout the second half of the twentieth century and ideas of how mothers should behave were hotly contested. Definitions of what made a ‘good’ mother were constantly in flux, though, so women had to adjust to these changing requirements. Through an analysis of the oral history interviews, this chapter explores the relationship between mothers and the experts. It shows how mothers could struggle to reconcile the demands that these experts were making upon them.

Keywords: Motherhood; Childcare; Advice literature; Frederick Truby King; John Bowlby; Donald Winnicott; Benjamin Spock; Penelope Leach; Gina Ford

Chapter.  14004 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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