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Child care, experts, and parents: historical trends


NB Language of instruction is English unless only Dutch-speaking students participate


In this course we highlight historical trends in advice to parents about child raising.

Since a few centuries, parents are assisted by so-called experts who provide them with guidelines as to how to bring up their children. Clergymen, medical doctors, pedagogues, and, increasingly, psychologists have voiced strong opinions about mundane matters such as bedtime tantrums and toilet training.

It was repeatedly suggested that bringing up a child is too difficult a task for ordinary parents. Meanwhile, the experts themselves differed in opinion and their counsel did not always rest upon solid scientific research. It will be shown that advice was influenced by such currents as psychoanalysis and behaviorism and that it changed when new concepts became fashionable or new technologies became available. Evidently, much allegedly scientific advice was based upon no more than contemporary culture-bound opinion.

Time table

For the timetable of this course please refer to MyTimetable

Mode of instruction


Assessment method



During this course Brightspace will be used.

Reading list

  • Christina Hardyment (2007). Dream babies: Childcare advice from John Locke to Gina Ford. London.

  • Daniel Beekman (1977). The mechanical baby: a popular history of the theory and practice of child raising. Westport.


Students must register themselves for all course components (lectures, tutorials and practicals) they wish to follow. You can register via My Studymap up to 5 days prior to the start of the course.

It is mandatory for all students to register for each exam and to confirm registration for each exam in My Studymap. This is possible up to and including 10 calendar days prior to the examination. You cannot take an exam without a valid pre-registration and confirmation in My Studymap.

Carefully read all information about the procedures and deadlines for registering for courses and exams.

NB The exam of this course is a paper. This means that you do not have to register yourself for this exam in My Studymap.

Contact information

During this course Dr. L. van Rosmalen