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Children In Society

Children In Society Children in society today, as many centuries ago, are shaped by the opinions thrust forth upon them by the adults they live alongside. Experiences of most children in the 16th through 18th centuries were shaped by the differing and continuous views of the adults they were living with in their certain time periods. Adult views and their subsequent effects on children were all changing in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries. In the sixteenth century adults had a pessimistic view of children, and therefore treated them harshly, while expecting many things out of them. Robert Clever, a Calvinist, whom was influenced by his religon concerning how children should be treated, points out that children are born with a wrong doing heart and are drawn towards evil (1). This man, of the upper class points out the lack of trust between the adult and the child, and how children need to be shown to be good via education, but that until then the child is evil. Lady Jane Grey recalls upon her experiences in the 1530s as having to be perfect around adults and having to do things to the utmost standards, or else she would have physical punishment inflicted upon her.

This shows all that was expected of children and the consequences of their failure to achieve this ideal set forth by the adults. Lastly, in the sixteenth centuries, the pessimistic view of children resulted in their harsh treatment because, as Bartholomew Batty pointed out in 1581 how parents beat their children, inflicting discipline in violent ways, which shows the violent and harsh disciplinary actions put forth on the children during this time. Because of the negative thought towards children in the sixteenth century, they were treated violently and punished harshly. In the seventeenth century, more positive adult views towards children at the time emerged, and less seemed to be expected of children, as they were given more room for error than in earlier times. As Anglican minister John Earle says, concerning children, he thinks that children are a blank notebook and that as they live, things the child sees is added to that notebook, and he is saying how children are not born evil, as previously thought in the sixteenth century, but rather children do not know of evil, so they are therefore good before they know of anything that may happen to be evil. Mothers were also encouraged at this time to breast feed their children on their own, rather than hire a nurse to do their work for them, as described in the regrets of Elizabeth Clinton in 1622. This view shows caring for the children and their need for their mothers and people around them.

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Lastly, Sir George Savile emphasizes the need for love shown towards the children. He says that if love and kindness is shown towards the child, that he or she will in turn respect his or her elder. Sir George Savile believes that children should get all that they want, and if they dont that they should be let down in a slow and easy manner. This shows the lack of expectations for the child to cope with things he or she cannot have, and the emphasis on caring and loving a child. In the seventeenth century an emergence of more positive views toward children came to be, along with less expected of the children than in the sixteenth century.

The eighteenth century shows similarities to both centuries leading up to it. This century combines the sixteenth century expectations from the children, with the seventeenth century optimism towards children. The adults in the eighteenth century viewed children as good, but in need of guidance, and with that guidance, children are able to do many things. In 1721 an Anglican rector wrote about a child that the child is very happy and delightful to be around, and thus was given responsibilities. Giving children responsibilities shows that children are being respected in society at this time.

Along with the higher expectations of the children, in documents 6 and 7, mothers are called upon to breast-feed their children. This is also giving duties to the parents for the welfare of their children. As with the times, knowledge is growing in the eighteenth century as William Buchan M.D. points out in document 9 that the previous swaddling of children thought to make them better in the sixteenth century, is bad for the children possibly damaging their organs. Discipline is still prevalent in the 18th century, though it is not of the violent sort.

As in the Letter of Sir Philip Francis in 1774, concerning the making his son a gentleman shows the belief that children can do things, but also the belief in punishment, of the kind such as taking away of privileges. All of these documents show the trend of expectation with positiveness in eighteenth century Europe. History Essays.


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