The Role of the Central Child in American Families (1850-1950)

GEOG/HST170: Historical Geography

University of Vermont — May, 2022

Professor Meghan Cope (

Student Researchers: Tulley Hescock, Ella Myregaard, Quinn Raymond, Amelia Sherman, Bronagh Stack


Library of Congress

Families have changed dramatically over the 100 year period from 1850-1950. Over this period children progressively became the central focus of the family and went from being seen as expendable and an economic asset to being seen precious and in need of protection. The changing role of children can be seen in family dynamics, threats to families, and parental expectations. Industrial, economic, and political forces dictated changing laws and regulations around the public discourse of improving and valuing modern childhood.