Saturday

When Society Gave Custody to the Father

Myth -- The original common law solution of granting custody to fathers showed that society used to understand that fathers were equal child caregivers.

Fact: "Prior to the twentieth century, the legal status of women and children was tantamount to that of chattel. Married women could not enter into contracts, own or manage their own property, work in many professions, or even vote. That fathers got to keep what they 'owned' on divorce indicates nothing about actual caregiving, and tells us only that the power and status imbalance between men and women was extreme. In fact, after the relatively rare divorce, just as after the relatively common death of mothers in childbirth, the children actually were cared for and nurtured by older female siblings, aunts, grandmothers and other relatives, stepmothers, and household help."

[liznotes email [email protected] if you want detailed cites.]

Fact: "Direct paternal involvement in childrearing is a radical departure from almost all historical patterns of family structure."

Bloom-Feshbach, J. (1981). Historical perspectives on the father's role. In M. Lamb (Ed.) The role of the father in child development (2nd ed., pp. 71-112). New York: Wiley.

Also see: Robert B. Shoemaker. Gender in English Society 1650-1850: The Emergence of Separate Spheres? Themes in British Social History Series. London and New York: Longman, 1998.ISBN 0-582-10315-0.


Fact: [O]nly 100 years ago, 20% of women were killed by childbirth (or some related complication) and 20% to 50% of infants died during the first year of life... Until the 19th century... children were often considered worthless possessions --'just another mouth to feed'... often unwanted (no birth control), treated coldly (no cuddling and bonding), swaddled, and even beaten regularly and terrorized (some religious folks thought they had to drive out Satan and 'the stains of original sin') ...there have always been lots of single-parent families (caused by death); women have always worked outside the home (as servants and in the fields).

Kain, E. L. (1990). The myth of the family decline. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books. cited in RELATIONSHIPS WITHIN THE FAMILY, ISBN 1-890873-00-4 Copyright © 1996-2000 Clayton Tucker-Ladd & Mental Health Net

Fact: "[I]t would be a mistake to exaggerate or romanticize colonial men's involvement in family life. Although men could be attached to and indulgent of very young children, there is no evidence to suggest that they engaged in the daily care of infants or toddlers. Diapering, feeding, bathing, cooking, and other everyday tasks of childcare were left to wives, older daughters, or servants."

Mintz, Steven & Kellogg, Susan (1988). Domestic Revolutions: A Social History of American Family Life. New York: Free Press.



You can read more at the Liz Library.
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There is a lot of talk about return back to the way things were, original ways, original families...I get a lot of people looking for the old "alienation of affection" law.

Who wants to go back to the olden days...when women couldn't get out of abusive marriages, when women couldn't have aspirations outside of the home? Hell, we couldn't even vote! Who benefits the most from these arrangements?

And you wonder why women initiate more divorces? Ha!



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