“Keeping Young Minds Sharp”: Children's Cognitive Stimulation and the Rise of Parenting Magazines, 1959–2003

Authors


  • *Financial support for this research was generously provided by Scott Davies' SSHRC Initiatives in the New Economy (INE) grant. Many thanks to Scott Davies, Art Budros, Bruce Arai, Janice Aurini, Anne Gauthier and Lynn Lethbridge for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this work. Many thanks also to the three anonymous reviewers for their comments. A previous version of this paper was presented at the 2003 Canadian Sociology and Anthropology Association annual meeting, for which it was awarded the Best Student Paper Prize. This manuscript was first submitted in April 2005, resubmitted in revised form in November 2005, and accepted in March 2006. Contact: lquirke@wlu.ca.

Abstract

Dans cet article, l'auteure etudie l'éthos changeant du métier de parent en se fondant sur l'examen des magazines et des articles sur l'art d'être parent. La diversification et l'augmentation substantielle du nombre de magazines sur l'éducation des enfants dans quatre pays industrialisés d'expression anglaise démontrent une grande préoccupation par rapport à l'« art d'etre parent » en tant qu'entreprise intentionnelle. Une analyse de contenu de plus de 500 articles canadiens sur le sujet révèle un déplacement de l'importance placée sur les activités d'« amusement » vers un intérêt croissant pour l'education et le développement cognitif des enfants. En accord avec ceux et celles qui observent au fil du temps un souci accru concernant le développement cognitif des enfants, l'auteure pense que les parents canadiens sont de plus en plus encouragés à favoriser activement les aptitudes aux études de leurs enfants.

This study is an exploration of the changing ethos of parenting based on an examination of parenting magazines and articles. The substantial growth and diversification of parenting magazines in four English-speaking industrialized countries indicate a larger preoccupation about “parenting” as a deliberate undertaking. A content analysis of more than 500 Canadian parenting articles reveals a shift in emphasis from “fun” activities to an increasing focus on schooling and children's cognitive development. Consistent with others who document a heightened concern for children's cognitive development over time, I find that Canadian parents are increasingly encouraged to actively foster their children's academic skills.

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