Mortality, Burial, and Parental Attitudes
Introduction: Parental Attitudes toward Children
Parental Attitudes toward Children
When Aries proposed that in cultures and historical eras where a large percentage of children did not live to see their first or second birthday, parents were often indifferent to the death of a child. He states that this is an “inevitable direct consequence of the demographic situation of that time”.1 Some researchers examining familial histories have come to a similar conclusion. Yet in the last thirty years others have come to criticize this view, which at times has been based on selective data, as well as interpretations based on modern views of parent-child relationships.2 Evidence of parental attitudes toward their children is vast and diverse. For example, diaries of colonial Americans reveal deep affection for one’s children, while other evidence appears to reflect ambivalence. The widespread practice of infanticide from prehistory to the present is also indicative of the complexity of parental grief and concern.
This book aims to examine the culture of parent-child relationships, and more specifically parental concern for the child, by investigating the mortuary behavior associated with a child’s death. The scope of this book is global. Funerary behavior is observed from the Prehistoric to Modern era. The thesis of this book is not to claim that parental grief over a child’s death indicates parental concern. Rather, I seek to provide a layered perspective of the complex feelings parents demonstrated toward their children in different cultures, in different historical eras, and through...
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