In large numbers of working- and lower-middle-class households, for much of the first two-thirds of the twentieth century, children were generally cared for, not by a doting mother, but a sibling. Indeed, many children in these homes spent much of their youth caring for siblings or being attended by them. The demise of the system of sibling care represented a seismic shift in family arrangements. This essay examines the historical experiences and relationship of the sibling-caregiver and the charge, and traces the short- and long-term effects--often, the psychological scars--of each role. It considers why many of the young had highly ambivalent relations with their mothers in these years and perceived their mothers as unavailable to them. The study also explores why many mothers resisted any change in this family system. It compares the experience and effects of sibling care in the past with contemporary child care arrangements.

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pp. 31-61
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