Natural childhood? or marketed childhood…

September 21, 2016

latham-foundation

“Brother Buzz” design by Meredith Eliassen, 2016.

The Latham Foundation to promote Humane Education was established in 1918 to foster in children a better understanding of the importance of treating animals well. The character of Brother Buzz (an elf in the form of a bee) was created to appeal to children and teach them about animals. Brother Buzz appeared first in print form in 1927, then on radio in the 1930s during the Great Depression, and then local television as World War II veterans opened up the broadcasting industry. The Wonderful World of Brother Buzz (1952-1969) was the longest running locally produced children’s program in the San Francisco Bay Area and the first to feature a puppet promoting the humane treatment of animals.

American pediatrician Benjamin Spock (1903-1998) revolutionized child rearing and childhood with his book Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care (1946) that promoted a kind of permissive parenting when it asserted to mothers, ”You know more than you think you know.” Spock brought about major social change in childhood as young mothers in the post-war years relied more upon his marketed advice than upon family advice. American psycho-historian Lloyd deMause in examining the overarching psychological motivations of childhood through history found that Spock was part of a movement that asserted that the child “knows better than the parent what it needs at each stage in life.” While this perhaps gave parents the opportunity for nostalgic visits to childhood through their children, and the opportunity for children to be more independent to express views, it also subverted traditional safety boundaries. It would also bring in huge profits for baby and children’s stores lasting from approximately 1948 until 1970 when the baby bust occurred.

 

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