Qualitative Sociology

, Volume 32, Issue 4, pp 337–353

Children’s Autonomy and Responsibility: An Analysis of Childrearing Advice


DOI: 10.1007/s11133-009-9136-2

Cite this article as:
Rutherford, M.B. Qual Sociol (2009) 32: 337. doi:10.1007/s11133-009-9136-2


Employing qualitative content analysis of 300 childrearing advice articles from Parents magazine, this paper maps historical changes in the depiction of parental authority and children’s autonomy. This popular text reveals increased autonomy for children in their private self-expression, especially in regard to activities of daily living, personal appearance, and defiance of parents. However, the magazine also portrays children’s diminished public autonomy as revealed through increasingly restricted freedom of movement and substantially delayed acceptance of meaningful responsibilities. An appreciation of popular childrearing advice as a measure of individualistic cultural values thus requires an understanding of larger social changes that shift attention from public participation toward private self-expression.


Individualism Personal autonomy Parenting advice Children and youth 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyWellesley CollegeWellesleyUSA

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