Abstract

The historical trajectories of childcare institutions and of ideas pertaining to childcare show parallels in France and in the United States. Yet, the two countries differ considerably in regards to their approaches to childcare and to the use of childcare services. Relative to the French, American traditions of childcare have been underpinned by an ideology of domesticity, that is, a high value placed on individual responsibility and a philosophy of limiting government interventions in matters related to child-rearing and the family. Currently, for instance, parents in France cover 27 percent of the costs of institutional childcare whereas parents in the U.S. pay 60 percent of these costs on average. In view of this discrepancy, the present study portrays social, cultural, and political circumstances under which childcare institutions have developed. By comparing the evolution of ideas, beliefs, and discourses about (institutional) childcare, it aims to shed light on the causes of disparities in the standing of two corresponding childcare facilities: the French crèche and the American day nursery. The study considers historical milestones since the inception of the first facilities in the 1840s, thereby contributing to the understanding of contemporary approaches to childcare. The comparative-historical analysis suggests that Americans have assigned the responsibility of childcare and child-rearing to a greater degree to families whereas the French have tended to share responsibilities between the family and some structure of society more consistently. Conclusions as to how this affects childcare today are drawn.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-1897
Print ISSN
0022-4529
Pages
pp. 1005-1025
Launched on MUSE
2012-06-25
Open Access
No
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