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Growing Up in Nineteenth-Century IrelandA Cultural History of Middle-Class Childhood and Gender$
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Mary Hatfield

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780198843429

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198843429.001.0001

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Medical Men, Negligent Mothers, and Malleable Children

Medical Men, Negligent Mothers, and Malleable Children

Chapter:
(p.25) 1 Medical Men, Negligent Mothers, and Malleable Children
Source:
Growing Up in Nineteenth-Century Ireland
Author(s):

Mary Hatfield

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780198843429.003.0001

This chapter considers the medicalization of childhood from the late eighteenth century into the 1840s. What we might now term a ‘biological’ definition of childhood is seen first in late eighteenth-century medical intervention into the care of infants. These texts are part of a wider ‘rationalization’ of childhood which emerged in scientific and child-rearing genres. The influence in Ireland of John Locke, William Buchan, and the Edgeworths’ contributed to a reformulation of childhood as a period of enormous intellectual and physical malleability. As the matter of children’s health shifted from the female domain to the business of men, medical professionals defined the child body in opposition to the adult male body. Elite women were criticized for coddling their children excessively, while the lower classes were characterized as neglectful and uncaring. By the mid-nineteenth century, objective standards of growth were deployed as mechanisms for governing parental as much as childhood behaviour.

Keywords:   Paediatrics, Irish physicians, William Buchan, childcare, breastfeeding, Enlightenment, Maria Edgeworth, John Locke, Jacques Rousseau, parenting, medical care

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