Parenting and Democracy in Contemporary Europe
Edited by David G. Mayes and Mark Thomson
Chapter 3: Valuation of children and childcare
In her intriguing analysis Pricing the Priceless Child, Viviana Zelizer (1994) examined the transformation in the economic and emotional valuation of children in the United States in the period 1870s to the 1930s. Highlighting the rise of the emotionally ‘priceless’ child, she noted how, in strict economic terms, ‘children have become worthless to their parents’ (p. 3). Children are expensive, she observed, and increasingly so, with the costs of bringing up a child rising substantially in the US in the period under study. While Zelizer’s discussion engages primarily with the changing relationship between parents and markets, this chapter draws attention to a different transformation in the valuation of children – one that first took place in Scandinavia in the 1970s with renegotiation of the traditional institutional balance of responsibility for caring for young children and a redistribution of the costs entailed. National policies signalled a redrawing of the boundaries between the public and private spheres, and especially between the state and the family.
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