History 248 Reading Guide

Child Rearing and Education in the Colonial Period and the Early Republic

  • Rodney Hessinger, “Problems and Promises:  Colonial American Child Rearing and Modernization Theory,” Journal of Family History 21.2 (1996), 125-143.  SAGE Premier or (e-reserve)
  • Maris A. Vinovskis, “Family and Schooling in Colonial and Nineteenth-Century America,” Journal of Family History 12.1 (1987), 19-37.  SAGE Premier or (e-reserve)


  • According to Hessinger, what are the primary flaws in modernization theory as an explanation of changes in childrearing practices and in the family in colonial America?  How has the recent literature on childrearing practices revised that construction?
  • What broad tendencies and trends have emerged in the recent literature on American social experience—individual, family, community—during the colonial period and early national period?
  • How did the application of new ideas about the relationship of the individual to society result from and lead to changes in childrearing practices?
  • What were the implications of these changes for “community”?
  • According to Vinovskis, what assumptions about family and community in colonial New England did Bernard Bailyn bring to his study of socialization and schooling?  How have these assumptions since been revised?
  • How did the institutions of family, school, and church share in the responsibility of educating young people in early New England?  In what ways were their roles complementary?  When, and for what reasons, did changes occur in the means of education in colonial New England?
  • How did the responsibility for and the goals of education change during the nineteenth century?  How did various segments of New England society respond to these changes?  Whose interests did these changes serve (look for a complex rather than a simple answer)?