How childhood innocence disappears with age

Has childhood really disappeared? - Questions from a qualified teacher to Neil Postman

Table of Contents

Preliminary consideration

I. Childhood and Childhood History
1. Definition of childhood
1.1 Approaching a definition of childhood
1.1.1 Definition of childhood - the different perspectives
1.1.2 Definition of childhood - the common aspects
1.2 Postman's conception of childhood
1.3 Summary
2. Childhood story
2.1 Introduction
2.2 Antiquity
2.2.1 Introduction
2.2.2 The child's image
2.2.3 Infanticide
2.2.4 Caring for the child
2.2.5 Game
2.2.6 School / education / sexuality
2.2.7 Conclusion
2.3 Middle Ages
2.3.1 Introduction
2.3.2 The child's image
2.3.3 Infanticide
2.3.4 Care / Adjustment
2.3.5 Game
2.3.6 School
2.3.7 Conclusion
2.4 Modern times
2.4.1 Introduction
2.4.2 The child's image
2.4.3 Infanticide
2.4.4 Care / Adjustment
2.4.5 Game
2.4.6 School
2.4.7 Child labor
2.4.8 Conclusion
2.5 Conclusion on the history of childhood

II. “The Disappearance of Childhood” - a critical examination of Neil Postman's thesis
1. Presentation of Postman's thesis
1.1 The "invention" of childhood
1.2 The disappearance of childhood
1.3 The disappearance of adulthood
1.4 Criticism of television
1.4.1 Entertainment as a primary goal
1.4.2 Contextlessness of the information
1.5 "The medium is the message"
2. Discussion of Postman's thesis
2.1 Introduction
2.1.1 Questions to Postman
2.1.2 Pedagogical relevance of Postman's thesis
2.2 The concept of childhood according to Postman
2.3 Literacy as the cause of childhood
2.4 Television as the cause of childhood disappearance
2.4.1 Media Fears - Media Use
2.4.2 The media perception of children
2.4.3 Loss of Authority
2.5 Childhood today - social background
2.5.1 "The Risk Society"
2.5.2 Change in the family
2.5.3 The attitude towards the child
The child's exaggerated emotional worth
The child as a "quasi-substitute partner"
Perfect socialization
2.5.4 Childlike contexts of action
2.5.5 Institutions
2.5.6 Conclusion: changed childhood
3. Conclusion

III. Consequences for pedagogy
1. Pedagogical discussion of the new media
2. Pedagogical discussion of the changed childhood
3. Conclusion

Final consideration



"God knows there are no more children."

(Molière: the conceited patient[1] )

“Nature wants children to be children before they become men. If we want to reverse this order, we will produce precocious fruits that are neither fully ripe nor fully flavored and will soon spoil. We will have young scholars and old children. "

(Rousseau: Emil[2] )

Preliminary consideration

Headlines like: "End of Childhood"[3], "When childhood disappears"[4], "Cheated out of childhood"[5], "Children - stressed and overwhelmed"[6]here are headlines from Spiegel, Stern and Focus in the press and on television show that childhood continues to be followed with concerned attention.

According to media reports, childhood has changed, it is no longer what it used to be: childhood eating disorders, drug addiction, propensity for violence, increasing television consumption and the growing popularity of computer games among children provide inexhaustible topics of conversation.

According to the media, today's children are increasingly exposed to psychological and psychosomatic stress, as a result of which they suffer from adult diseases. The delinquency of adolescents is increasing. Today's children are said to be familiar with almost all aspects of our modern way of life. Childhood today is school, media and consumerism; today's children actually no longer have a childhood.

The explosive relevance of the topic is obvious: children are the guarantors of our future. Society reproduces itself by raising and socializing a new generation. The shape and course of childhood exert a decisive influence on our posterity.

Particular attention is paid to the influence of the media on childhood. For decades there have been warnings about the harmful effects of television and the spread of personal computers and the increase in Internet access in German households have intensified the discussion. The introduction of the “Teletubbies” series, which was specially designed for toddlers up to three years of age, has aroused feelings: with titles such as “soap opera for diaper wearers”[7] or "Who's Afraid of the Teletubbies?"[8] the discussion about the dangers and benefits of media flared up again at the end of the 1990s.

In this context, the thesis of the American media ecologist Neil Postman described in the book "The disappearance of childhood" (1982) - that childhood is disappearing - seems to be still relevant. According to Postman, the idea of ​​childhood arose from the invention of the printing press and the subsequent spread of "social literacy" (i.e. the ability to read and write[9] ). As the electronic mass media, especially the medium of television, make the need for social literacy disappear, childhood is also extinguished, according to postman.

Although Postman's book received a great deal of response from social scientists (such as Hurrelmann[10], Stallion[11], Jostock[12], Kemper[13] ) and many still refer to Postman's thesis in their books in the 1990s, apart from a few brief reviews, there is no comprehensive examination of his theory.

Postman also maintains his thesis after almost twenty years: In an interview from 1998, when asked whether it is still true, he replied: "More than ever."[14] In his most recent work entitled “The Second Enlightenment” from 1999, Postman emphasizes the topicality of his thesis: “Childhood was invented for individuals in the seventeenth century. Since the eighteenth century it began to take the form we are familiar with. In the twentieth century, childhood began to dissolve, and in the twenty-first century it could be entirely lost - unless there is a serious interest in maintaining it. "[15]

The constant presence of the topic as well as the fact that the end of childhood has been predicted for decades was my motivation to deal with this topic more closely.

As a prospective educator, sooner or later you will encounter the problem of media consumption and media literacy during my internship at the educational and family counseling center in Amberg. We consultants were repeatedly asked by concerned parents how many hours a day they were allowed to let their children watch television, which programs were recommended and what effects television would have on the children. These questions sparked my interest in the topic and motivated me to deal with the topic of childhood and television.

The present work deals in particular with Neil Postman's thesis about the disappearance of childhood. However, questions that inevitably arise from this thesis must also be examined.

The question arises whether this statement is tenable at all, and if so, whether it is still valid two decades after it was made.

Since Germany was decisively shaped by the United States in political, economic and cultural terms in the 20th century,[16] it is also to be asked whether US development tendencies can be transferred to the FRG.

It examines whether childhood really disappears - or perhaps just changes - and what role the media, especially television, play in this. The question to be asked is whether the process of disappearance or change can be stopped or should at all. Another question is which indicators can be determined for this development. It is also important to ask when childhood came about and what it looked like in earlier epochs. Furthermore, the question of the educational relevance of Postman's thesis for educators is of particular importance.

This work is connected with the hope of making a contribution to answering these questions and giving the educators an impetus to review their requirements and, if necessary, to draw conclusions for the practice.

In the first part of the thesis a definition of childhood is approximated. It is examined how the phase of adolescence was shaped in the epochs of antiquity, the Middle Ages and the modern age. In order to be able to establish a reference to Postman's thesis, the last decades of modern times are examined in the second part.

The second part deals with Postman's thesis about the disappearance of childhood. After the presentation of the thesis, in addition to Postman's concept of childhood, it will be examined whether childhood actually came about through literacy and disappears again through the medium of television. The second part should also examine whether there are other causes for the disappearance of childhood. In this context, the design of today's childhood is discussed in more detail. In the third part the question is asked what consequences the knowledge gained has for pedagogy.

"You don't know childhood, and because of misconceptions about it, the further you go, the further you get lost."

(Rousseau: Emil[17] )

I. Childhood and Childhood History

1. Definition of childhood

The first question that arises is what is meant by “childhood” and what features this term has.

1.1 Approaching a definition of childhood

The term childhood associates ideas such as smallness, innocence, a time of growth and plasticity, of learning and playing, a phase of carefree and immediacy of expressions of life, questions, desires and feelings. We associate childhood with social dependency and strong social ties, need for help, but also growing independence.[18]

Childhood is referred to in specialist dictionaries as "the first major section in human development"[19] defined. In terms of time, it is determined as follows: "Childhood extends from birth to the age of 14 (legally) or until the beginning of sexual maturity (developmental theory)".[20] Its end is also indicated differently: Accordingly, it ends "when the ripening begins"[21] or with "beginning of adolescence"[22].

It is divided into different stages, most commonly into: infant (birth up to two years), toddler (two to six years) and school age (six to 14 years)[23]The division into age groups is based on the average values ​​of physical, psychological-spiritual and social development, the course of which shows smooth transitions.

1.1.1 Definition of childhood - the different perspectives

Different scientific disciplines accentuate different aspects of childhood.

The psychological Perspective regards childhood as a developmental span that is characterized by quantitative and qualitative psychological changes. It asks about the condition and influence factors of psychological processes as well as about the connection between somatic growth and psychological development, about processes of formation and the causes of psychological undesirable developments. It emphasizes the earliest childhood as the most important phase for human development and deals with the development of the individual functional areas such as perception, thinking, language, memory, etc.[24]

The sociology defines childhood through membership of age groups in society. In doing so, she primarily examines the social role and legal position of the child inside and outside the family, but also the social status of growing children in relation to adults. Particular attention is paid to “socialization”, which means that the process of personality development is understood in a dialectical relationship with the socially mediated social environment. In the course of this process, the individual develops into a socially capable human subject.[25] According to this, childhood is the phase in which a person acquires his ability to act and personal identity through the acquisition of values, norms and action patterns.

After educational Childhood perception refers to the phase in which a person has a unique initial and structural form, which is dependent on developing, regulating, appealing and informative upbringing for its differentiation and structuring in the physical, psychological-spiritual and social areas and is responsive to them.[26]

The anthropological Childhood perspective is understood as an overarching consideration: It is not about the analysis of individual forms of behavior and performance of the child, but about capturing the entirety of the child's way of life and the child's world experience. She strives to explore the child's “being-in-the-world” as a whole and as a way of human “being-in-the-world”.[27]

By recognizing that being human begins as being a child, childhood, according to the anthropological view, no longer becomes a build-up phase or a stage to be overcome, but rather an independent and independent form of life of human existence with its own meaning of existence and its own Kind of striving for perfection.[28]

1.1.2 Definition of childhood - the common aspects

What is striking is the fact that a definition of childhood is often lacking in educational, psychological and sociological literature. The term “child” is defined much more often than “childhood”. This is likely due to the complexity of the term. It is also noteworthy that, despite the different accentuation, the definitions in the specialist literature are similar. On the one hand, regardless of the subject, the same characteristics of childhood can be found again and again. It is e.g. of "own status"[29] or "childlike character"[30] spoken and thus the attribute of oddity accentuated. That is also emphasized helplessness and Addiction: "The social status of the child is characterized by psychological and social dependence"[31] etc. and the lack of responsibility: "Childhood as a phase of life in which the child remains free from the responsibility of adults"[32]. The Need to learn: "The childhood phase is an age phase of learning"[33]. Also the special one Significance for later development is emphasized.[34] According to Portmann, the special influence of the early phase of life results from the view of the human being as a “physiological premature birth”: This is the time when the strongest advance in maturation and the acquisition of skills takes place.[35]

On the other hand, it is consistently stated in the specialist literature that Childhood socially produced[36] will and a "social institution[37] be. What is meant by this is that the way of life and character of the child is not only dependent on development, but also depends on the political, social, economic and cultural situation of the time: Not only the childhoods in nations and peoples are different, not only the childhoods of the centuries and epochs, but also the childhoods in town and country and the poor and rich are different.[38] The social understanding has a decisive influence on the length of childhood, the social status and the possibilities of individual personality development. Childhood is not a constant, but is constantly being redefined as culture changes. As a consequence of this it follows that childhood can only be understood in connection with the respective time situation, the socio-economic and cultural conditions.

1.2 Postman's conception of childhood

The three cornerstones of what Postman understands by childhood are the terms: "Literacy”, „Shame" and "education”. For him, childhood is based on being unable to read, while adulthood is based on being able to read. Since all literature collects and preserves secrets, only adults who have mastered the art of reading and writing have access to cultural secrets such as death, sexuality, violence etc. and thus have a "knowledge exclusivity" towards children. The knowledge encoded in the books can only be gradually developed through learning to read, for which children need education. According to Postman, childhood does not exist without adult shame, which shields children from adult secrets - and especially sexual secrets. The secrets are revealed only gradually to the extent that it is assumed that children are psychologically able to process them.[39] According to Postman, childhood is an educational phase in which children are kept away from the demands, responsibilities and secrets of the adult world, through education - apart from adults - acquire literacy - for which they need education - and slowly overcome the dividing knowledge gap .

1.3 Summary

In order to be able to make a statement about when childhood arose and whether it is about to disappear - as Postman claims - a definition of childhood is required at this point, which serves as a yardstick and provides important points of orientation.

childhood as a state (biological condition) describes the phase in life in which the person is physically and psychologically not fully mature, as a result (to a decreasing extent) helpless and dependent.

childhood as a task set for young people is the time of learning and the transition from the initial complete helplessness and ignorance to an enlightened, knowing, healthy and equal person.

The development tasks that are placed on adolescents can be classified into the following categories:

1. Psychological development tasks: acquisition of language, logical thinking, intelligence, morals, knowledge, education, ability to express, etc.
2. physical development tasks: development of physical skills, motor skills; Attaining physical maturity.[40]
3. Social development tasks: Gaining independence, responsibility and the ability to act socially; Adoption of norms and values.

childhood as a task of society is the first time in a person's life when the young person needs attention, consideration, encouragement and education. The adult society is challenged to give its physically, mentally and intellectually not yet developed individuals a “safe space” so that they can play, learn and gain experience to prepare for a participating role in the respective social frame of reference.[41]

This work defines childhood as a biological condition, a phase in which developmental tasks are mastered and as a space granted by society.

"[...] everyone, born just ten years earlier or later, should have become completely different in terms of their own education and outward impact."

(Goethe: From my life[42] )

2. Childhood story

2.1 Introduction

There is a consensus that we have little information about childhood[43] in earlier times: "there are wide gaps in our knowledge about the life of children in past ages [...]."[44] The reason given is that historians had little interest in the everyday life of children: for a long time it was believed that serious historiography deals with the representation of public - and not private - events.[45] A child was previously not an object of interest to mature people as it was considered an unfinished adult and no longer. The sources are silent about how children were treated and raised in the past, how they felt. Historical childhood is a "terra incognita".[46]

References to children can be found incidentally in contemporary documents, in letters, in articles of necessity and in literature or art. Biographies or autobiographies also describe the childhood of individual people, but should be viewed with reservations. The former tend to exaggerate, especially when they talk about famous people. In autobiographies, the retrospective approach can lead to the transfiguration and falsification of the facts.

Two standard works of literature on childhood history, which are always referred to, should be mentioned here: “Do you hear the children crying” by Lloyd deMause and in particular Philippe Ariès ’“ History of Childhood ”.

The French original edition of Ariès work was published in 1960 under the title: "L` enfant et la vie familiale sous l’ancien régime" (The child and family life under the Ancien Régime[47] ). The German title is broad, because the book is limited to the late Middle Ages and the early modern period, spatially to France - and under the aspect of social structure - to the nobility and the bourgeoisie.

According to Ariès, medieval society had no conscious relationship with childhood; children and adults lived in close communion with one another. Only in the light of the modern Enlightenment was the child torn out of medieval “sociality” and childhood discovered as a period in human life. Ariès assumes that the children were better off before the discovery and introduction of childhood as an exclusive sphere than they are now.

Ariès is accused of being incoherent in his method, ambiguous terms and bold conclusions. He had a tendency to generalize and the argumentation presupposed knowledge of French conditions. He also shows a nostalgic escape to the past from the difficulties of the present.[48]

Despite the methodological deficiencies, the publication of the book meant a turning point in the history of research: one can only speak of a preoccupation with the subject of childhood since Ariès. The work also represents one of the most important overall representations of the subject.

Lloyd deMause provides a different view of childhood. His anthology from 1974, which is originally called "The History of Childhood", is in Germany under the emotionally charged title: "Do you hear the children cry?" published. The parent-child relationships are periodized by deMause in six consecutive sections, analogous to the increasing psychological ability of parents to recognize and satisfy the needs of their children. According to deMause, this development can be traced in an ascending line from the age of "Child murder ” (Antiquity to the fourth century) over that of the "Giving away”(Fourth to 13th century), the“Ambivalence”(14th to 17th century) and the subsequent“intrusion"(Penetration) (18th century),"socialization"(19th to mid-20th century) and"Support”(From the middle of the twentieth century).[49] He opposes the idea of ​​Ariès that children in traditional, pre-civilized society were happier because they could develop freely. According to DeMause, all previous childhoods (albeit with a decreasing tendency) resulted in child abuse because the parents lacked the necessary psychological prerequisites to care for their children. positive

He claims: “The story of childhood is a nightmare […]. The further we go back in history, the inadequate care of the children [...] and the greater the likelihood that children would be killed, abandoned, beaten, tortured and sexually abused. "[50]

DeMause was met with strong criticism: Among other things, he is accused of being influenced by the utopian belief in progress of our time, and he is also unimpressed by the contributions of the authors of the anthology he initiated.[51] The progress in parental empathy or "psychogenesis" that he praised is even regarded as pure speculation.[52]

In order to take a position here and perhaps to discover a tendency, an examination of childhood in earlier times is necessary. In the following, an attempt is made to give an insight from the available sources what childhood meant in Western Europe in the epochs of antiquity, the Middle Ages and modern times and what features of our current concept of childhood can be found in these periods of time.

Only a few selected aspects of childhood, such as the image of the child, care, upbringing, etc., are dealt with here, as they allow conclusions to be drawn about attitudes towards children and the shaping of childhood. Other elements such as the representation of the child in art or clothing etc. are deliberately not dealt with, as they would go beyond the scope of this work.

2.2 Antiquity

2.2.1 Introduction

The epoch of ancient Greece and Rome (recorded by literature) covers the period from about 1250 BC. BC to AD 476[53]

There are no coherent representations of the antiquity's attitude towards children; they have to be put together from individual sources such as utopian drafts in philosophical writings, comedies or court hearings. The interpretation and evaluation of the literature is, however, controversial.

2.2.2 The child's image

In Greece, childhood is seen as part of a development that only reaches its climax in adulthood. Only as a board member of an Oikos ("Ð o koj", Greek: "house", "shared apartment"[54] ) or as a wife and mother you are a fully-fledged person. Children did not have the worth of an adult, they were considered imperfect.[55] The child received its importance from the fact that it guaranteed the continued existence of the oikos, the support of its parents in old age and the preservation of the cult of the dead.[56]

The child was described as mindless, foolish and weak, adults with such characteristics were described as childish.[57] Childhood was not considered a happy time. According to Aristotle, happiness lies in the activity of the soul and the ability to choose what is good. Since a child, as a mindless, even animal-like being, is incapable of this, it cannot be happy either: “It makes sense for us not to call a cattle, a horse or any other animal happy. Because none of them can participate in such an activity. For the same reason a child is not yet blissful ”.[58]

In Rome, too, children were considered immature adults; the Roman historian hardly considered them worth mentioning. They were not understood as being of their own worth. The child belonged to the parents, was their property and a thing with which the father could do whatever he wanted.[59] The sons and daughters had to face the unrestricted power of the father (pater familias)[60] subject and owed love and obedience (pietas) to their parents.[61] With Quintilian the idea arose that one should see in children beings who from birth have a full capacity for development. It is only a small step from thinking that every child has a mind worth developing to believing that every child has a soul to be saved.[62]

This view has been preserved up to the Roman Stoa. Only with the advent of Christianity did the image of the child change fundamentally.

2.2.3 Infanticide

The antiquity is assumed to have a cruel attitude towards children: Child murder is said to have been a generally accepted, everyday phenomenon in ancient times.[63]

As evidence of the ruthlessness of that time, statements of great thinkers are used: "With regard to the abandonment or rearing of newborns, it should be the law not to raise a crippled child [...]"[64]. Seneca says: "We kill great dogs, we cut down a wild and irrepressible ox, [...] we get rid of unshaped births, even children when they are born frail and misshapen we drown."[65]

These harsh and drastic explanations require critical examination. Certainly, children who were not born into a marriage or a marriage-like relationship were often abandoned. There severe deformities as a sign of divine anger[66], Work of evil forces[67] or as a bad omen[68] deformed children were abandoned in both Greek and Roman antiquity.

Of course, sons were more desirable than daughters to keep the oiko.[69] Therefore, in Greece, as in Rome, girls in particular were exposed because they could not continue the family line and their marriage was costly.[70]

However, there are also numerous testimonies of deformed children were considered to be

It evon the desirability of children in antiquity: medicine and science dealt intensively with the subject of conception and pregnancy. The emphasis on the usefulness of the child for parents and the state by Cicero, Hierocles and Augustus speaks in favor of the desire for children.[71]

With regard to child abandonment, there was a change in the first century of our era: Christianity gave the child more protection and consideration. However, infanticide was only sanctioned by the state in late antiquity. A decree of Emperor Valentinian III from the year 374 finally declared the killing of the child to be murder.[72]

2.2.4 Caring for the child

Great attention was paid to child care in antiquity: If you read Aristotle's "Politics"[73] It is noticeable how carefully he devoted himself to the subject of child nutrition, care and upbringing. He believed that children need support, exercise and games. He even advocated the careful selection of children's fairy tales.[74]

High demands were made on the wet nurse in terms of origin, age and diet.[75] Both mother and nurse were concerned about the child's welfare.

2.2.5 Game

For the Greeks, purposeless play was frowned upon as useless flirting. Aristotle would only like to allow games if they have any recognizable use with regard to later life: "therefore the games should primarily be an imitation of what the children will one day be occupied with as men."[76] Plato also advises children to playfully prepare for their future career.[77]

Greek children played from three to six / seven years of age. Archaeological sources offer a wealth of illustrative material about children playing, and children's play is also portrayed in poetry. Children played with hoops, balancing sticks, skipping rope, yo-yo or the girls with dolls. The Romans were more lenient with the child's play; Quintilian viewed the game with benevolence.[78] Even the games of ancient Rome were not essentially different from those of the Greeks. This is due to the fact that Greek slaves brought the games with them from their homeland.

2.2.6 School / education / sexuality

Great importance was attached to the upbringing and education of the children, which began with the careful selection of the household and was continued with the planned physical and mental training. School education was considered important: schools existed in antiquity as early as around 500 BC. Chr.[79]

Ancient society comprised several strata, which of course did not enjoy schooling to the same extent. In classical Athens, schooling began at the age of seven. Upbringing in Rome was a family task for a long time, but the more complicated Roman society became, the less sufficient an upbringing acquired through practice was. The school system of the Greeks was largely adopted.

The road to education was tough and tearful. Beating was a common education method. It didn't go without detentions either,[80] which is not surprising given the idea of ​​the child at the time.

The Greeks considered pederasty to be the most important means of upbringing: In Greece it was the custom that every man should choose a boy or young man whom he would draw upon in daily dealings as an advising and caring friend for all male virtues. The fact that this relationship between man and pupil was also of a sexual nature did not contradict the moral concepts of the time.[81] In the so-called“Greek boyish love” was not really about boys, i.e. underage children, but always about sexually mature boys who had already passed puberty.[82] The daily contact and the close cohabitation of the male youth with men was a matter of course. Today's idea of ​​the ancient child living in an atmosphere of sexual abuse[83] lived, must therefore be put into perspective.

It cannot be denied that there were also boys and boys' brothels for sale back then. In Rome, love for boys was not included in the educational system, but sexual intercourse with boys was not perceived as morally offensive either.[84]

2.2.7 Conclusion

After the previous consideration it should be noted that childhood to be a child in antiquity meant something different than it does today. Positive: Desire for children, play space, lessons, affection, positive aspects can be found in attitudes towards children in antiquity: their desirability, their ability to play, the care and affection shown for them as well as the emphasis on their education.

The custom of abandoning children is to be viewed negatively; in our opinion there is no such thing as existence unworthy of life[85]. The view of the value of children's life is drastically different from ours.

As we understand it, a sexual relationship with children is reprehensible and punishable. However, the term "pedophilia" has seen a shift in meaning over time. In antiquity boy love was an educational institution and had no norm-breaking meaning. One should therefore not make the same mistake as some historians or deMause, who use the scheme of the 19th / 20th century to describe the relationship between younger and older people. Century.

It is true that in ancient times children did not enjoy the protection, consideration, care and encouragement they have today. Childhood did not mean the sheltered space we know. The ancient world already developed many ideas about aspects of childhood, but childhood in our sense as well as according to the definition on which this work is based did not exist.

2.3 Middle Ages

2.3.1 Introduction

The Middle Ages encompass the period from the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the fifth century to the great discoveries of the 15th century. The beginning and end of the epoch are difficult to determine: The transition from late antiquity to the Middle Ages extends for almost a hundred years (406-476), and its end is also given differently. The end date varies from 1450 (Gutenberg; book printing), through 1492 (discovery of America), 1517 (Luther posting of theses) to 1789 (French Revolution). Europe’s expansion overseas is usually viewed as the transition from the Middle Ages to the modern era, as from then on the history of Europe became linked with the rest of the world.[86] For pedagogy, however, the printing press and its consequences are of decisive interest for the new era. Because the spread of the book and thus the knowledge brought about fundamental changes for children: Firstly, humanistic ideas could spread. This phenomenon has decisively advanced the development of understanding and empathy towards children. Second, with the spread of literacy, it became necessary for children to go to school, a development that had profound effects on their position in society.

When examining childhood in the Middle Ages, a problem similar to that of antiquity arises: We know little about childhood in the Middle Ages, the cause is the lack of interest of chroniclers and biographers of the Middle Ages in the everyday life of growing up.[87] The reason for this is that the Middle Ages as an epoch was pre-individualistic, i.e. there was no need to make oneself an object of literary consideration.[88]

2.3.2 The child's image

One cannot speak of a clear picture of the child in the Middle Ages, since the epoch, which lasted about a thousand years, is characterized by many changes. The following quotes, the first at the beginning (5th century) and the second at the end of the Middle Ages (early 16th century), illustrate how the perception of children had changed during this period.

“But who would not shrink back and, when faced with the choice of either die or become a child again, not choose death? Do not greet the child laughing, but crying, this daylight and thereby unconsciously prophesy what evils it is facing. "[89] "Who does not know that people will never be as happy and everyone's darling again as they were in their first childhood?"[90]

The view of antiquity, according to which the child was regarded as an imperfect and unreasonable being, was definitely preserved in the Middle Ages. Christianity added a new trait; the child was also burdened with original sin: "The child was conceived with lust and carnal desire and is thus tainted with sin."[91] It therefore bears the mark of condemnation from the beginning, its nature is corrupt and tends towards evil.[92] On the other hand, Christianity also brought something good for the child: With Jesus' hint: "Let the little children come to me, for theirs is the kingdom of God", at least the child's soul was recognized as having equal rights.

Another aspect of the medieval conception of the child is the assumption that the child is a "tabula rasa". Correspondingly, its impresiveness and malleability are emphasized: Erasmus von Rotterdam compares children with soft wax or with clay.[93]

The fact that there was no uniform terminology in medieval sources for children shows that childhood was not given the importance of today.[94]

Childhood in the Middle Ages is short: the age of seven was generally accepted as the turning point for the end of childhood.[95] At this age, city children have either entered the stage of upbringing outside of the family when they are handed over to school or teachers, or they have already been integrated into working life. Boys were apprenticed to craftsmen and traders, while girls were more likely to be kept in their parents' household in order to prepare for their role as housewives and mothers.

In the rural world of work, children at the age of seven were considered to have developed enough labor that they could earn their own living.[96] Children were either integrated into the work process in their parents' farm or they went into foreign service as maidservants.

Adolescents were also married off early. The age of twelve for girls and 14 for boys was considered appropriate for entering into marriage.[97] Children who were intended for the monastic class were handed over to the monastery around the age of seven, often earlier.[98] Only with the rise of humanism in the late Middle Ages did the view of children change, and with it the child's position in society.

2.3.3 Infanticide

The custom of infanticide and abandonment lived on from ancient times. Thus, in the early Middle Ages, the life of a newborn child was not very safe. Children were often killed by being crushed in bed with their mother or wet nurse.[99]

However, in the practice of infanticide since late antiquity, the Christian faith has played an increasingly important role: Christianity has given the child an appreciation. The idea that the child is endowed with an immortal soul that must be preserved is a merit of this religion.[100]

Since the killing of newborns is against Christian moral teaching, the Church tried to counteract the custom of infanticide and abandonment. A number of church councils condemned infanticide and abandonment practices and provided assistance to abandoned children.

In order to provide a remedy against the abandonment and killing of unwanted children, foundling houses were set up in Italy as early as the early Middle Ages.[101] Pope Innocent III confirmed the fraternity of the Holy Spirit, which was particularly dedicated to the establishment of hospitals and foundling houses. According to legend, Pope Innocent came to this decision after he witnessed a fisherman pulling the corpses of newborn children out of the Tiber in his net.[102] Foundling centers have emerged in many cities in the West over the years.[103]

In England in the early 13th century, the first secular laws emerged that the killing or accidental asphyxiation of a child should be punished as much as murdering an adult.[104]

Infanticide and abandonment primarily affected girls, physically deformed and mentally retarded children in a predominantly military and agricultural society.[105] Although in the course of time better and better ways of accepting these children developed through monasteries, foundlings and orphanages, the lives of children in the Middle Ages remained at risk.

2.3.4 Care / Adjustment

In the Middle Ages, little emphasis was placed on caring for children: even in the upper class, it was a common practice in this era to leave the child in the care of a wet nurse. Since the wet nurses were looking after several children at the same time, they were often overwhelmed. There was high child mortality due to poor hygiene and poor medical care[106]: In the 16th century, a third to a fifth of newborns did not even survive the first year of life.[107]

Attitudes towards children were also not very loving. A strict discipline was propagated in the upbringing. The advocates of strict upbringing cited relevant quotations from the Bible, especially from the Old Testament: “Whoever spares his rod hates his son; but whoever loves him punishes him in good time. "[108] It was not until the first half of the 15th century that other perspectives emerged under the influence of Italian Renaissance humanism. The humanists present antiquity as a model: Reference was made to Quintilian, Plutarch, Virgil, and the plea for a moderate and balanced upbringing. According to this conviction, children should be guided on the right path more by admonition and conviction than by corporal punishment.[109]

Since the 12th century there has been a change in attitudes towards children, with more child-friendly values ​​and attitudes becoming more and more widespread.[110]

In the middle of the 12th century the opinion slowly gained acceptance that sexual maturity of the partners was necessary for the marriage to be possible. With regard to the oblation, too, one came to the conclusion that a religious vow made before the age of 14 was not compulsory. This shows the incipient process of individualization: the paths of life were no longer mapped out from the start, they had to be confirmed and wanted by the individual.[111]

In a growing number of didactic works of the 13th century, interest in health care and the physical education of young children emerged. Various educational teachings show this new interest in children: In 1215 Konrad von Megenberg deals with childcare[112] and Bartholomäus Anglicus, in one of the earliest influential encyclopedias, gives an accurate description of the physical dispositions, emotional characteristics, and habits of children. He shows a clear understanding of childhood by viewing it as a carefree and playful phase of life.[113]

2.3.5 Game

The view of antiquity about the uselessness of the game was also preserved at the beginning of the Middle Ages. Augustus writes in his confessions: "And I was disobedient not because I would have wanted better, but out of love for the game [...]."[114] Only the very youngest are allowed to play, for adolescents it is already considered unworthy, they want to lift it out of this childish state as soon as possible. Children are taught to read and write at the age of three to four, and farmers' children have to work as early as possible.[115] On the positive side, many medieval authors such as Aegidius Romanus, Avicenna, Vinzenz von Beauvais and Konrad von Megenberg emphasize the importance of playing. But it was only humanistic educators who propagated more freedom, freedom of movement and games for adolescents.

Known toys were: rattles, tires, running wheel games, hobby horses, rocking horses and dolls for girls. The game was played with clay balls and a top; Ball, catch and ring games were also popular.[116]

2.3.6 School

The aim of education in the Middle Ages was to prepare the child for his later role as a member of the Christian community and as a member of the class society.

After the fall of the ancient school system, the first schools were established in the monasteries to train their own spiritual offspring.[117] With the blossoming of the urban system and the rise of the bourgeoisie, the need for schools for this population group arose and urban schools were founded.[118]

Not all children had the opportunity to go to school: the father was considered to be directly responsible for bringing up the son, but a teacher was also used if necessary.

With dWhen the child's labor was needed at home, they only attended classes between the ages of nine and 13 and were withdrawn from school prematurely. For those who left school after a short period of time, childhood continued to be a very short period of time.[119]

The distribution of school education did not correspond to the stratification: the core of the student body was formed by the children of middle-class families, civil servants and future clergymen. Women were excluded from schooling, so the customs related to early entry into the adult world and short childhood applied to them. Girls were already little women at the age of ten, i.e. apart from the instructions for housekeeping, they enjoyed almost no education.[120] The methods of education were also in accordance with the medieval view of the child: fear and beatings were predominant in the classrooms.[121] It was only with the advent of humanism that the usefulness of spanking in school was questioned.[122]


[1] Molière in Fulda (ed.), 1948, p. 128.

[2] Rousseau in Schmidt (ed.), 1912, p. 51.

[3] Gaschke, 2000, p. 3.

[4] Heuser, 1998, p. 4.

[5] Marlier-Heil, 1999, p. L2.

[6] Steinkohl, 1999, p. 47.

[7] Förster, 1999, p. 242.

[8] Assheuer, 1999, p. 41 f.

[9] See Postman, 1986, p. 20.

[10] See: Hurrelmann in Gogolin / Lenzen (ed.), 1999, p. 110.

[11] See: Hengst in Aufenanger (ed.), 1991, p. 19.

[12] See: Jostock, 1999, p. 88.

[13] See: Kemper in Renner (ed.), 1995, p. 13.

[14] Postman quoted from Heuser, 1998, p. 4.

[15] Postman, 1999, p. 147.

[16] See: Lüdtke / Marßolek / Saldern (ed.), 1996, p. 9 ff., Http://

[17] Rousseau in Esterhues (ed.), 1958, p. 8.

[18] See: Süssmuth in Speck / Wehle (ed.), 1970, p. 602.

[19] Groothoff, 1964, p. 163; Hans-H. (Ed.): The Fischer Lexicon -

[20] Böhm, Dictionary of Pedagogy 1994, p. 383.

[21] Maturations Groothoff, 1964, p. 163.

[22] Adolescence Schröder, Basic Vocabulary Educational Science 1992, p. 170.

[23] See: Böhm, 1994, p. 383.

[24] See: OerterKindheit in Oerter / Montada (ed.): Developmental Psychology, 1995, 1995, p. 248 ff.

[25] See: Hurrelmann in Hurrelmann (ed.), 1976, p. 16 f.

[26] See: Süssmuth in Speck / Wehle (ed.), 1970, Kind und Jugendlicher, in Handbuch Pedagogischer Grundbegriffe p. 602.

[27] See: Behler, 1971, p. 3.

[28] See: Froese in Höltershinken (ed.), 1976, p. 409, Behler, 1971, p. 3.

[29] See: Oerter Kindheitin Oerter / Montada (ed.): Developmental Psychology, 1995, 1995, p. 249.

[30] See Süssmuth in Speck / Wehle (ed.), 1970, Kind und Jugendlicher, in Handbuch pädagogischer Grundbegriffe p. 602 and Wulf, (ed.), 1984, Dictionary of Education 1984, p. 316.

[31] Süssmuth in Speck / Wehle (ed.), 1970, Child and Adolescent, in Handbook of Basic Pedagogical Concepts p. 604.

[32] See: Oerter Kindheitin Oerter / Montada (ed.): Developmental Psychology, 1995, 1995, p. 249.

[33] See Wulf (ed.), 1984, Dictionary of Education, p. 317.

[34] Schröder,: Basic vocabulary of educational science, 1992, p. 170.

[35] See: Hamann, 1998, p. 138.

[36] See Baacke, 1992, p. 50.

[37] See: Menne in Wendt / Loacker (eds.), 1984, p. 264.

[38] See Weber-Kellermann, 1989, p. 13.

[39] See: Postman, 1986, p. 19 ff.

[40] See: Mussen, 1974, p. 28 ff., Rauh in Oerter / Montada (ed.), 1995, p.178 ff.

[41] See Weber-Kellermann, 1989, p. 13.

[42] Goethe in Birus / Schöne / Reinhardt, (ed.), 1986, p. 13 f.

[43] It should be noted that the term childhood used here is not identical to the definition of childhood worked out in point I.1.3.

[44] Bossard, 1966, p. 488.

[45] See: deMause in deMause, (ed.), 1977, p. 12.

[46] See Zahn in Plessen, 1979, p. 5.

[47] The term refers to the absolutist system of rule in France from the 16th century to the revolution of 1789.

[48] See: Arnold, 1980, p. 10 f.

[49] See: deMause in deMause, (ed.), 1977, p. 82 ff.

[50] deMause in deMause, (ed.), 1977, p. 12.

[51] See: Arnold, 1980, p. 10.

[52] See: Hentig in Ariès, 1976, p. 44.

[53] See Lamer, 1976, p. 39 and Brodersen / Zimmermann (eds.), 2000, p. 36.

[54] See: Andersen (ed.), 1965, p. 2121.

[55] See Lassahn, 1983, p. 30, Dirx, 1964, p. 318.

[56] See: Deißmann-Merten in Martin / Nitschke (ed.), 1986, p. 269 f.

[57] See: Deißmann-Merten in Martin / Nitschke (ed.), 1986, p. 270.

[58] Aristotle in Gigon (ed.), 1951, 1099b, p. 71.

[59] See Plessen, 1979, p. 25.

[60] See: Dahlheim, 1994, p. 356.

[61] See: Andersen (ed.), 1965, p. 1526, Brodersen / Zimmermann (ed.), 2000, p. 290.

[62] See: Lyman in deMause (ed.), 1977, p. 122 f.

[63] See Lassahn, 1983, p. 29, Dirx, 1964, p. 26 ff, deMause in deMause, (Ed.), 1977, p. 46 ff., Hartmann, 1904, p. 24.

[64] Aristotle in Rolfes (ed.), 1958, 1335b, p. 277.

[65] Seneca in Moser (ed.), 1828, p. 46.

[66] See: Deißmann-Merten in Martin / Nitschke (ed.), 1986, p. 281.

[67] See: Hartmann, 1904, p. 24.

[68] See: Eyben in Martin / Nitschke (ed.), 1986, p. 318.

[69] See: Deißmann-Merten in Martin / Nitschke (ed.), 1986, p. 278.

[70] See: Eyben in Martin / Nitschke (ed.), 1986, p. 270ff, also Plessen, 1979, p. 16.

[71] See: Eyben in Martin / Nitschke (eds.), 1986, p. 320.

[72] See: Arnold 1980, p. 45.

[73] The correct name is: “¹ polite… a”, Greek: “The (state) constitution”.

[74] See: Aristoteles in Rolfes (ed.), 1958, 1336a, p. 277 f.

[75] See Schneider, 1967, p. 133, Eyben in Martin / Nitschke (ed.), 1986, p. 329, Deißmann-Merten in Martin / Nitschke (ed.), 1986, p. 288.

[76] Aristotle in Rolfes (ed.), 1958, 1336a, p. 279.

[77] See: Arnold, 1980, p. 67.

[78] See Dirx, 1964, p. 83.

[79] See Schmitz, 1980, p. 14.

[80] See Schneider, 1967, p. 147, and Plessen, 1979, p. 24.

[81] See: Licht, 1965, p. 291ff., Deißmann-Merten in Martin / Nitschke, (ed.), 1986, p. 305.

[82] See: Licht, 1965, p. 289 and Deißmann-Merten in Martin / Nitschke (ed.), 1986, p. 304.

[83] See: deMause in deMause, (ed.), 1977, p. 71 f.

[84] See Plessen, 1979, p. 22.

[85] However, this is contradicted by the currently very controversial “prenatal diagnostics”.

[86] See Bayer / Wende, 1995, p. 378 and Geiss, 1984, p. 248 ff.

[87] See: McLaughlin in deMause, (ed.), 1977, p. 147, Plessen, 1979, p. 39.

[88] See Winter, 1984, p. 11.

[89] Augustinus in Thimme / Andersen (eds.), 1978, p. 708.

[90] Erasmus in Welzig (ed.), 1975, p. 25.

[91] See: Arnold in Martin / Nitschke (ed.), 1986, p. 460.

[92] See: Lassahn, 1983, p. 32.

[93] See: Arnold in Martin / Nitschke (ed.), 1986, p. 450 f.

[94] See: Ariès, 1976, p. 82 f., Lyman in deMause, (ed.), 1977, p. 115, Arnold, 1980, p. 20.

[95] See: Winter, 1984, p. 26, Arnold in Martin / Nitschke (ed.), 1986, p. 446.

[96] See: Arnold in Martin / Nitschke (ed.), 1986, p. 454.

[97] See Winter, 1984, p. 149, McLaughlin in deMause (ed.), 1977, p. 182.

[98] See: Arnold, 1980, p. 22.

[99] See: Arnold, 1980, p. 49, McLaughlin in deMause (ed.), 1977, p. 174.

[100] See Plessen, 1979, p. 33.

[101] See Plessen, 1979, p. 33.

[102] See: Arnold, 1980, p. 46, McLaughlin in deMause (ed.), P. 177.

[103] See Arnold, 1980, p. 46, Dirx, 1964, p. 240.

[104] See: McLaughlin in deMause (ed.), 1977, p. 174.

[105] See: McLaughlin in deMause (ed.), P. 174, Arnold in Martin / Nitschke (ed.), 1986, p. 462 f.

[106] See Lassahn, 1983, p. 35.

[107] See Weber-Kellermann, 1989, p. 26.

[108] AT, Proverbs, 13.24 in Nötscher (ed.), 1959, p. 456.

[109] See: Arnold, 1980, p. 82.

[110] See: McLaughlin in deMause (ed.), 1977, p. 197, Winter, 1984, p. 44.

[111] See Winter, 1984, p. 148.

[112] See Winter, 1984, p. 111 ff.

[113] See: McLaughlin in deMause (ed.), 1977, p. 197.

[114] Augustinus in Bernhardt (ed.), 1987, p. 37.

[115] See: Dirx, 1964, p. 84 f.

[116] See: Arnold, 1980, p. 69 ff.

[117] See Schmitz, 1980, p. 35.

[118] See Schmitz, 1980, p. 40.

[119] See: Ariès, 1976, p. 460.

[120] See: Ariès, 1976, p. 460 f.

[121] See: Ross in deMause (ed.), 1977, p. 306.

[122] See: Ross in deMause (ed.), 1977, p. 305.

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