The Atlantic

There Used to Be Consensus on How to Raise Kids

Dr. Benjamin Spock, the 20th-century icon of parenting expertise, has been replaced by a chorus of conflicting ideas and advice.
Source: AP

This article is part of Parenting in an Uncertain Age, a series about the experience of raising children in a time of great change.

As I think of today’s parents, who fear they aren’t doing a good enough job, I sometimes imagine the arrival of a new Dr. Benjamin Spock, a calming presence to rein in the tumult of parental angst. After the devastation of war, in the period from the late 1940s through the 1950s and into much of the ’60s, Spock’s sound advice and soothing voice assured mothers that they could raise their children capably and with a certain delight in the experience.

Spock was ubiquitous throughout the West in the post–World War II world. Indeed, it was striking that so many parents in so many places were reading from his 1946 guide, . Spock’s child-rearing manual was second only to the Bible in volume of sales in the United States. His ideas reached even those who did not read him, via the mass media and doctors who relied on his books. In

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic8 min read
The New Secession
Residents of the majority-white southeast corner of Baton Rouge want to make their own city, complete with its own schools, breaking away from the majority-black parts of town.
The Atlantic4 min read
The Atlantic Daily: Oh, the Places You’ll Go
When paying off $40 million in tuition debt for these graduating seniors still only does so much. Plus: how this space object ended up with a dark nickname, abortions or adoptions, and more
The Atlantic5 min readPsychology
Dear Therapist: I’m Hiding Something From My Therapist
Editor’s Note: Every Monday, Lori Gottlieb answers questions from readers about their problems, big and small. Have a question? Email her at dear.therapist@theatlantic.com. Dear Therapist, Last year, I started working at a company that has an employ