Sunday, October 21, 2007

Childrearing in the Old Days

I've heard from old timers, thank God not my parents, who denigrate the new rules and restrictions for child safety. These "old wives" say that in their day they would put a child to sleep on his/her stomach, or not use a child seat, or feed a child grapes/peanuts/broken glass - and it would be fine! They would emphasize that "I raised my child this way" somehow assuming that their lives, and those of their immediate circle, create the entire cohort for the law of averages.

I think it's important to remember that infant mortality rates in America have fallen precipitously in the past few decades. To quote the CDC:
At the beginning of the 20th century, for every 1000 live births, six to nine women in the United States died of pregnancy-related complications, and approximately 100 infants died before age 1 year (1,2). From 1915 through 1997, the infant mortality rate declined greater than 90% to 7.2 per 1000 live births, and from 1900 through 1997, the maternal mortality rate declined almost 99% to less than 0.1 reported death per 1000 live births (7.7 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1997)
As such, even though we must respect our elders when they have opinions that reflect their years of accumulated wisdom, the 'elders' often know diddly about medicine. And when an elder is clearly confusing nostalgia with knowledge, then smile politely and whistle a tune in your brain until they stop talking and then say "Thank you" and walk away...

{2009 Update: Child labor picture from here, which captions the photo thus: "[Two girls wearing banners with slogan "ABOLISH CH[ILD] SLAVERY!!” in English and Yiddish, one carrying American flag; spectators stand nearby. Probably taken during May 1, 1909 labor parade in New York City. George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress).]"}


Shmendrik said...

Right... but virtually all of that is due to antibiotics and immunizations, not safety measures.

JC said...

Well, you should have seen the car seats they made in 1900! They were wicker.