Book Cover

How are children raised in different cultures? How are families and communities structured around them? Now available in a revised edition, The Anthropology of Childhood sets out to answer these questions, and argues that our common understandings about children are narrowly culture-bound. Marshalling evidence from several lines of research, David Lancy shows that, while the dominant society views children as precious, innocent, and preternaturally cute “cherubs,” there are other societies where they are regarded as unwanted, inconvenient “changelings,” or as desired but pragmatically commoditized “chattel." Enriched with anecdotes from ethnography and the daily media, the book examines family structure and reproduction, profiles of children’s caretakers within family or community, their treatment at different ages, their play, work, schooling, and transition to adulthood. The result is a nuanced and credible picture of childhood in different cultures, past and present. Organised developmentally, moving from infancy through to adolescence and early adulthood, this new, extensively revised, edition reviews and catalogs the findings of over 100 years of anthropological scholarship dealing with childhood and adolescence. Drawing on over 750 newly added sources, the book explores recently emerging issues relevant to the world of childhood today.