Times reporter Jessica Grose waded back through the paper's archives to see what sort of advice it had printed for parents:
In the ’30s and ’40s, The Times had a parenting writer named Catherine Mackenzie, whose columns dealt with issues we’re still mulling, like how much kids should be learning in preschool, whether new kinds of media are harmful to children, and what to do when 13-year-old girls want to wear lipstick and go on dates. . . .
But the most revealing article I read was from 1952. It was a summary of the work of Clark E. Vincent, a graduate teaching assistant in sociology at the University of California, who had surveyed thousands of articles from the previous 60 years of infant care and child-rearing advice.
Vincent noted that the breast vs. bottle “controversy” has been around since Hippocrates, and that much of parenting advice is trend-driven. “In 1890 women’s magazines recommended ‘loose scheduling’; in 1920 they were all for the tight schedule, ‘cry it out’ routine, and in the last year analyzed, 1948, all were for ‘self regulation’ by the baby,” the article noted.
According to Vincent, parenting advice has “often reflected changing patterns of thought in middle-class society, and changing theories of education and personality transformation.” His ultimate takeaway? Less dogmatism and more flexibility, “so long as the baby’s needs are satisfied.” Maybe if we keep giving this advice for the next 70 years — that there’s no one way to parent, that kids can thrive in many different situations — it will finally stick.