Sociologist Markella B. Rutherford has an article out in Qualitative Sociology titled, “Children’s Autonomy and Responsibility: An Analysis of Childrearing Advice” [pdf]. I found out about it from this blogpost Lisa Guernsey who suggested an alternative title might have been, “Today’s Kids: So Many Choices, So Little Freedom.” Guernsey summarizes Rutherford’s research this way:

Rutherford compared childrearing advice in Parents magazine from 1929 to 2006, poring over 300 texts comprised of advice columns and articles on child development, discipline, parenting methods, and family relationships. She was looking for moments in the texts where authors talked about giving children choices – such as choosing what or when to eat, what activities to be involved in, what kind of chores to do or when to do them. What she found is that parents have, over the decades, given their kids more choices at home while tightening the leash once outside the house.

She goes on to provide additional details from Rutherford’s research and also provides links to a related story on what she calls the “choices-versus-freedom paradox” about parents being angry at neighborhood ice cream vendors who might seem to be a threat to parental control outside the house.

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