The Emergence of an Irish Adolescence: 1920s to 1970s

  • Mary E. Daly
Part of the Palgrave Studies in the History of Childhood book series


Adolescence is a period when, as Granville Stanley Hall described, there is a moratorium on adulthood and young people are permitted to enjoy a ‘freedom that leans a little toward licence’ while retaining an element of ‘shelter and protection’ provided by parents or teachers.1 This chapter sets out to determine when adolescence came to be an experience enjoyed by a majority of young Irish men and women. The focus is on socio-economic aspects, such as work, schooling, contribution to the family, and dependence and subjection to the needs and dictates of the birth family. Psychology, sexuality and the private lives of adolescents do not come within the remit of this study. The central argument that the chapter will develop is that the demographic and socio-economic conditions of Ireland in the late-nineteenth and the early- and even mid-twentieth centuries — especially though not exclusively in rural Ireland — meant that a significant proportion of Irish men and women either found themselves taking on the premature responsibilities of adulthood — by having to support their family or survive independently as an emigrant — whereas for others a quasi-childhood type of dependency persisted into middle age and sometimes even longer.


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© Mary E. Daly 2015

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