The Pre-schooler and Child Development

  • Philippa Mein Smith


As infant survival chances improved, ‘mothercraft’ broadened to include the pre-school child. Infant welfare expanded its focus from infant feeding to the child’s all-round development — physical, mental, social and emotional — as captured in the change of title of Dr Vera Scantlebury Brown’s textbook in 1947 from A Guide to Infant Feeding to A Guide to the Care of the Young Child.1 From the 1930s mothering ‘became the focus of new guidelines; not only the physical care of children, but responsibility for their psychological and emotional development was increasingly laid at mother’s door’.2 At the same time inter-war discourse became more gender-neutral.3 ‘Mothercraft’ became ‘parentcraft’ and debates family-centred, although the onus of responsibility for a child’s development stayed firmly with the mother. After the Depression, mothers were exhorted to aspire to the optimum standard of nutrition and development, a Utopian ideal for producing good citizenry set for Western countries by the League of Nations.


Child Development Child Welfare Nursery School Infant Welfare Fussy Eater 
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Copyright information

© Philippa Mein Smith 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Philippa Mein Smith
    • 1
  1. 1.University of CanterburyChristchurchNew Zealand

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