Friday, March 30, 2012


For the past 40 years I have been researching with over a hundred of my fellow psychohistorians the slow, uneven evolution of historical child rearing practices. We have discovered that there have been six parenting modes that have evolved historically:

    1.infanticide (tribes, early states),

    2.abandoning (early medieval),

    3.ambivalent (late medieval)

    4.intrusive (early states)

    5.socializing (early nations)

    6.helping (modern nations). 

All six modes are still present in modern nations, and less developed nations are still in the earlier three modes of extremely abusive childrearing. My book The History of Childhood posits that "the further back in history one goes, the more likely children are to be killed, abandoned, beaten, terrorized and sexually abused."

Other aspects of our scholarly work focuses on wars and social violence, showing that as nations evolve their less abusive childrearing practices they can create adults who are not time bombs, and rates of wars and social violence decrease. Obviously the ability to give real care and love to children reduces the amounts of fears and violence embedded in their brains and removes the need to repeat their abuse on others.

One of my studies on the origins of war and interpersonal violence in child abuse is my research into the childhood of Nazis.  The true cause of WWII and the Holocaust can be seen in the horribly abusive childrearing practices in German families in the early 20th century. Most families, even wealthy ones, committed infanticide without guilt. Newborns were tightly swaddled, covered with blood-sucking lice, and were usually handed over to usually brutal wetnurses. Because little children were considered evil, they were "hardened" by being burned and thrown into icy lakes, and were kicked and routinely whipped by parents and teachers, "whether they deserved it or not." Sexual abuse of children was also common.

All this brutality resulted in German adults who had to re-inflict their childhood cruelties onto scapegoats.  For instance, they called Jews "lice," and said they had to kill them "to prevent them from poisoning their German blood."  They repeated their own childhood toilet training on Jewish prisoners and called them "filthy shits" — forcing hundreds of them to stand for hours to wait for one toilet.  (Evidence for historical child abuse practices can be read free on

Proof that it was the horribly abusive childrearing of Nazis that was the cause of WWII and the Holocaust can be seen by what happened after the war, when there were serious efforts to change childhood in many European nations.  Over sixty years ago, several middle European nations vowed not to repeat their usual abusive childrearing practices, and passed many laws that achieved this — laws prohibiting hitting children (even spanking by parents), laws giving mothers three full years of pay for each child born so they could give them proper care, laws providing free parenting center advice, etc.  The result of this near elimination of child abuse was that in most European Union nations today adults have little interest in military ventures, and young men simply don't want to join armies.

When I give speeches to academic audiences and describe my psychohistorical findings, they regularly ask at the end of my talk:  "Are you really saying that if you give children around the world love and care and not abuse you will eliminate wars?" My answer is: "You understand me.The way to stop wars and terrorism is by giving more help to mothers toward improving child care, not by increasing military power."  I then describe how to establish neighborhood parenting centers, child abuse prevention groups and courses on childrearing in schools.

One of the nations in which we must work to improve childrearing is the United States, which today is 26th out of the most developed 27 nations in terms of healthy childhoods.  Half of U.S. children are still hit (five years ago it used to be over 90 percent).  Hitting children in school with paddles is still legal, and is practiced in 21 states.  American girls have the highest teen pregnancy rates.  Over half of American mothers have no spouse and must work, so have to leave their children to others for child care, etc.

The poor childrearing of so many Americans explains why the U.S. has the largest military in the world and continues to be in the middle of unnecessary wars around the world, plus has one of the highest murder rates of developed nations.  Ending child abuse must be the goal of all families and nations on earth for the next 50 years, so that the world in the future will be like the European Union today — uninterested in starting wars in order to re-enact the violence of their brutal childhoods.

By Lloyd DeMause

Lloyd DeMause / Psychohistory



Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I am researching child rearing practices in late 19th-early 20th century America. Specifically how a mother who had a Christian Science and Naturalist background would raise her children. I'm curious if anyone can offer me books or articles to read on the subject. I'm also curious about what was considered "normal" as far as raising children went…what did "everyone" do between 1895-1915? I can be contacted at

Anonymous said...

What's wrong with leaving kids in the care of others so parents can work?

Anonymous said...

I see these claims about the appalling abuse of children, but I never see the sources you supposedly use. How is anyone supposed to be able to verify any of your claims???