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Family Development From The Victorian Era To Now

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During the Victorian Era in England, a person’s specific role in their family was very important and very distinct. The Victorian family was considered to be a very valuable part of society. Very strict guidelines were followed by the families throughout this time. Mothers, fathers, and children contributed to their families in different ways during this era, and these living styles have changed drastically compared to today’s families. While some believe family conditions and their role in society has progressed through time, others still believe stricter parenting techniques and “old-fashioned values” are much more beneficial to both the family members and to society at large.

In the Victorian Era, each individual member of the family had specific duties and responsibilities to attend to. Victorian fathers were never expected to renounce anything more than their mandatory duties and responsibilities. They were often expected to sit back rather than care for the household. Fathers were known as “the legal owners of the family” (“Parenting in Victorian England”). Victorian fathers worked to financially provide for their families and act as the ultimate authority. On the other hand, Victorian mothers worked to maintain a safe, comfortable, and domestic home for their husbands to come home to after a long day's work. All mothers had to perform the full household duties and responsibilities, like getting water and boiling it, washing and ironing clothes, washing floors and scrubbing it with sand, and preparing food” (Abrams). This involved exhausting and laborious work for women at this time, however, it was expected of them to complete these household duties. On top of these tasks, women were required to maintain a comfortable home as well as have the duty to care for their children. Mothers spent most of their time with their children - feeding them, playing with them, and educating them. Women considered one of their main goals in life to be to become mothers, and they believed they “achieved true womanhood if they responded emotionally to their infants and bonded with them through breastfeeding and constant attendance” (Abrams). Motherhood was seen to be more than just a reproductive job and became the sufficient, satisfactory, emotional attainment for women. While marriage denotes a woman's maturity and decorum, motherhood confirmed that they had obtained ladylike characteristics and fulfillment. “For a woman not to become a mother meant she was liable to be labeled inadequate, a failure, or in some way abnormal. Motherhood was expected of a married woman and the childless single woman was a figure to be pitied” (Abrams). In these cases, women were highly encouraged to find work attending to children - as a governess or a nursery maid. Victorian parents had separate duties and responsibilities to attend to in order to benefit their family, which is very different from today’s 21st-century parenting expectations and goals, where mothers and fathers work to perform equal tasks to better their family as a whole and to improve for society altogether.

A child’s social class in the Victorian Era was very important to the way they were raised. For the early life of a child, the nursery was a symbol of the separation between the parents and the child. This distance indicates that the household was run by and for the adults. “In more prosperous families children were seen as ‘potential items of value in the business and marriage markets’” (“Parenting in Victorian England”). Victorian daughters were expected to marry up in social classes to bring the entire family higher in class. Children of the middle and upper class were expected to act obedient, dutiful, and thankful for their parent's care and support. Wealthy children were spoiled, having a more luxurious life than poor children, but their existence was much more sad, inessential, and affectionless. Nannies were hired to perform mostly all the tasks of the parents, like teaching the child what was proper and what was not, giving the child an education, feeding and dressing the child, and much more. This resulted in the child having very little to no communication with their parents. Children of lower-class acted as the income producers. They were forced to work to provide for themselves since their families couldn’t provide for them. These working conditions for the child were dreadful, especially when they were only 4 or 5 years old. They worked long, hard hours to pay the family’s bills. When mothers were unable to care for their children, they had to give their children to some form of a foster parent. “Unfortunately, this form of abandonment led to the worsened treatment of children, and prolonged child labor” (“Social Life in Victorian England”). In all these ways, the child’s early life was very important and pragmatic since it was meant to prepare them for life as an adult. As these is ideas and ideals the last statement still applies to today’s society, the treatment of children and responsibilities have improved tremendously.

The role of fathers has greatly improved from the Victorian Era to now, and these changes better today’s families. Fathers today are beginning to break away from the stereotypical roles. For example, they are preparing food, washing and folding laundry, and caring for their children. Some even get divorced, never get married, or even raise children by themselves or with a significant other of the same sex (Vrouvas). These changes have positively progressed over time, with fathers making a stronger appearance in their child’s lives. Because of this progression, the father figures of the household are preventing their children from “liv[ing] in poverty, develop[ing] behavioral problems, fac[ing] neglect and abuse, us[ing] drugs, carry[ing] guns, stay[ing] behind in school, show[ing] aggression, engag[ing] in delinquency, experiment[ing] with early sex, [and] end[ing] up in jail” (Vrouvas). This work produced by fathers is improving the children’s lives, and ultimately improving the family function altogether. “Men are even capable of forming the attachment with their offspring so crucial during infancy and early childhood. Research findings reported in a June 2016 article in 'Pediatrics’ found fathers to be as capable as mothers of showing emotions when interacting with babies and young children” (Vrouvas). Fathers are improving the family as a whole by stepping up and performing their full parent abilities, meaning their ability to work to financially provide as well as nurturing their children and creating approachable household management within the home environment. All of these advancements of fatherhood from the Victorian Era have positively and indisputably affected the family as a whole by improving the childhood of their children, sharing the parenting responsibilities, and ultimately expanding their position within their family.

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The roles of mothers from the Victorian era to the present have various advancements A role of a mother has greatly improved from the Victorian Era to now, and these improvements thus consequently change family life positively. As they are still playing the role of nurturers with the fathers, mothers today are working to financially contribute to their families. “In the typical family with a working mother, a mother contributes nearly 40 percent to her household’s income. 5 In the poorest families, mothers contribute 86 percent of the total income” (Maloney 1). This is a huge improvement compared to how it was in Victorian England - where mothers were hardly working to make money at all. During this time period, only stay-at-home mothers existed, however, “in 1975, less than one-half of mothers were in the labor force. Today, that share has grown to more than two-thirds” (Maloney 1). More mothers are out there working to benefit their families financially, and these statistics prove to us how there are more and more mothers working for their families each year, unlike how it was in Victorian England. Mothers today also have wider, and more supported, options with how they want to go about their life and motherhood. Mothers in the 21st century can choose whether or not they want to work, and whether or not to get married and have children. Some stay-at-home mothers still exist today, however, many are working full-time jobs. “As a result of the increase in mothers’ labor force participation, the majority of U.S. children today are growing up in a household without a stay-at-home parent. In 1965, 60 percent of children lived with a stay-at-home parent. Today, only 32 percent of children live with a stay-at-home parent” (Maloney 2). Mothers no longer feel the need to constantly be by their children’s side. Instead, they make time to be involved in the workforce as well as create a loving relationship with their children. Mothers today chose to be much more involved in the workforce unlike in Victorian England, where this thought never crossed their mind since it was socially unacceptable. It is, however, socially acceptable now to not get married and have children as a woman. It is not frowned upon - like it was in Victorian England - to not have a husband and children, and with this, it is not “highly recommended” to take up a job working with, or caring for, children. It is much more support for women to do what they were interested in instead of them being expected to follow womanly virtue. For the woman who does decide to become mothers, they go about that lifestyle differently than they did in Victorian times, and these changes are very important for the way they raise their children. These improvements, including being a working mother and financially contributing to the family, help mothers to easily be able to support their children, be a good role models and help their children to grow more independent. These are extremely important for families in the 21st century because: when mothers are able to support their children, the families do not have to face any financial crisis or struggles, when mothers are good role models to their children and their families as a whole, positive standards are set for the entire family to follow, and when mothers are more independent while they work away from home, their children grow to learn how to take care of themselves on their own in the situation where their parents will not always be by their sides every hour of every day. All these advancements of motherhood have greatly impacted our society today, leaving families more supportive, equally hardworking, and independent.

The role and treatment of children have greatly improved from the Victorian Era to now. Children today are now respected as individuals and are more intently cared for by their parents. “Treating each child as an individual is part of what makes that child a unique person and is a way of appreciating his special characteristics” (“Treating Children as Individuals”). It is now a goal parents strive to make their children proud, individual people rather than forgotten and frowned upon in society. Adolescents They are no longer forced into labor as a young child to work for their families as their roles are to be the best scholars they can be. Children are raised to have a strong, loving connection with their parents, and they will continue keeping this connection throughout their entire lives. Most of the growths and improvements of children are based on the improvements of the mothers and fathers. “Fewer kids suffer neglect or go hungry. They generally get more attention and support from their parents, and many governments are offering extra help to very young children from disadvantaged backgrounds” (Why Children’s Lives Have Changed Radically in Just a Few Decades). Because of how the parents raise their children today, or how society perceives children in the 21st century, each child gets the benefits of better treatment and care than in Victorian England. There are many opportunities for children of the 21st century to get a great education. Children of all ages and genders are encouraged to work hard throughout their educational years so that they have the opportunity to get employed in a job they are purely interested in. “Prosperous parents these days, especially in America, invest an unprecedented amount of time and money in their children to ensure that they will do at least as well as the parents themselves have done, and preferably better. Those endless rounds of extra tutoring, music lessons, sports sessions, and educational visits, together with lively discussions at home about every subject under the sun, have proved highly effective at securing good grades and social graces that will open the doors to top universities and well-paid jobs” (Why Children’s Lives Have Changed Radically in Just a Few Decades). The child’s parents are fully invested in the child’s life and future, and this helps them to progress into successful, intelligent, and proud adults later on in life. Children today are more protected than children were during Victorian times. Parents today work to protect their children from the dangers of the world, unlike parents did in Victorian England. Today, children have curfews to follow and restrictions set by parents, like where they can go, what times they can go, and how long they can be out. All of these improvements became great influences for children and society, which helps create a better, more supportive, and safe environment for the next generation.

On the other hand, there are people today who disagree with the new parenting styles of the 21st century and say old-fashioned traditions are better ways to raise a family. Their main point is that stricter parenting techniques are more effective for the parents, and more beneficial for the children. “Effective parenting involves setting limits and teaching kids to deal with the consequences that result from their actions. Strict parents know this, and they nurture their child's development with a firm consistency. Strict parents set high standards for their children and reinforce the importance of meeting those expectations” (Zagata). Some people follow these stricter techniques when parenting instead of being more gentle and sensitive since they say it is more beneficial for the child’s academic success, confidence, self-control, independence, and responsibility. These people today state how their way of parenting pushes their child to reach high standards of academic success, learn to cope with consequences and be confident to make better decisions, learn to set boundaries and limits for themselves, and think and solve problems on their own (Zagata). However, “boundaries and expectations are healthy and recommended, but need to be balanced with love, warmth, and respect for the child” (Traunter).

As there are advantages stated by lovers of strict parenting styles, there are many disadvantages that go along with it that parents must keep in mind for their children: “children are aggressive, but can also be socially inept, shy and cannot make their own decisions, children in these families have poor self-esteem, are poor judges of character and will rebel against authority figures when they are older, children will model the behavior shown to them by their parents while with their peers and as future parents themselves, children rarely learn to think on their own, [and] children have a difficult time managing their anger and are very resentful” (Traunter). Parents must keep the child in mind and understand what their specific child needs emotionally as well as physically. Not all children will always benefit from the “authoritarian” parenting style, in fact, many do not as stated before, which proves the importance for keeping the child’s needs in mind. “This style is low in parental responsiveness and high in parental demandingness. Authoritarian parents are not very emotional or affectionate, and are critical of their children if they fail to meet their expectations… Unfortunately, strong punishment leads to more misbehavior, rebellion and results in constant power struggles” (Trautner). Children are in need of love and affection, especially at a young age, and this parenting style is not giving in to that need. Instead, it gives children fear of failure, aggressive behaviors, and the inability to cope with their emotions on their own. “Research shows that children with authoritarian parents perform more poorly than kids with permissive parents. For a better parenting option, learn more about the authoritative type parenting style that allows children to be independent thinkers, self-regulate their emotions, and are successful, happy, and successful. Authoritative parents show high levels of warmth and control” (Trautner). There are much better alternative parenting styles to this authoritarian parenting style that benefit children and families in more positive ways. The authoritative parenting style helps the child live a more balanced life of independence, responsibility, and success with love, happiness, and being comfortable within their home and with their families.

The mother, fathers, and children of Victorian England dedicated their lives to their roles in their families. Their living styles have changed over time, going through improvements to form today’s family living styles. Some people say that the authoritarian parenting style is more beneficial, however, more advantages come from the authoritative parenting style, proving how it is substantially more valuable for families. While families of the Victorian Era were very authoritarian and less sensitive, families today are radically different. Today, they are sensitive, affectionate, close as a family, and overall authoritative. This way of families living is a great improvement from the way it was in Victorian England.

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Family Development From The Victorian Era To Now. (2022, February 26). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 8, 2023, from
“Family Development From The Victorian Era To Now.” Edubirdie, 26 Feb. 2022,
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