Average Child Height in 1836

Average Child Height in 1836

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Average height of

males in Factories


Average height of

females in Factories


3ft. 11in.


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4ft. 1in.


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4ft. 4in.


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4ft. 6in.


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4ft. 10in.


4ft. 10in.


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4ft. 11in.

Child survival, height for age and household characteristics in Brazil ☆

The impact of household characteristics on child survival and height, conditional on age, is examined using household survey data from Brazil. Parental education is found to have a very strong positive effect on both outcomes and this is robust to the inclusion of household income and also parental heights, which partly proxy for unobserved family background characteristics. We find that income effects are significant and positive for child survival but insignificant for child height although the latter depends on identification assumptions. Parental height has a large positive impact on child height and on survival rates even after controlling for all other observable characteristics.

We gratefully acknowledge the research support of EMBRAPA, and the assistance of IBGE who provided the data. Strauss received partial support form National Institutes of Health grant number HD21009-01. Strauss and Thomas were at the Warwick University Summer Workshop, July, 1988, when some of the paper was revised, Henriques was at Fordham University. Mauricio Vasconcellos was an invaluable guide through the data. We are grateful to him, Harold Alderman, Jere Behrman, Tanya Lustosa, John Mullahy, Mark Rosenzweig, Mark Stewart, T. Paul Schultz, James Trussell and two anonymous referees for helpful comments. Gyu Taeg Oh, Woo Heon Rhee and Dan Singer provided able research assistance. The authors share equal responsibility for the paper.

Kids grow at their own pace. There are a wide range of healthy shapes and sizes among children. Genetics, gender, nutrition, physical activity, health problems, environment and hormones all play a role in a child’s height and weight, and many of these can vary widely from family to family.

Doctors consider growth charts along with a child’s overall well-being, environment and genetic background. Your child’s doctor may also consider:

  • Is the child meeting other developmental milestones?
  • Are there any other signs that a child is not healthy?
  • What height and weight are the child’s parents and siblings?
  • Was the child born prematurely?
  • Has the child started puberty earlier or later than average?

Indian Children Weight & Height Chart [0 to 18 years]

In India, the Baby Growth Charts for Indian Children are either not followed in the initial stages or the WHO growth chart for boys and girls is often referred to. Indian children are different and so is their growth velocity. The WHO chart does the work for the children in western countries. IAP i.e. Indian Pediatric Academy provides an updated height chart and weight chart for Indian boys and girls. The chart can be referred to considering the Indian lifestyle, nutrition type, parental care and environment.
Below is the useful age-wise weight chart & height chart for boys and girls made from data by WHO and IAP. The chart can help the Indian parents contribute positively to their children’s growth.
Reference: IAP Growth Charts
Below charts are made with sole purpose of making the growth charts easy for new parents in India.

Weight and Height Chart for Girls in India (0-18Years)

Height Weight Chart for Boys in India (0-18Years)

Things to Consider While Checking the Your Baby Weight Chart/Height Chart

• The child growth chart mentioned here ranges from 3rd percentile to 97th percentile
• Hormonal changes after puberty are different in boys’ and girls’ growth and hence the comparison of their growth is not possible
• Around 94 % of boys and girls growing in accordance with the chart are considered growing normally
• More growth percentage doesn’t imply a great health the science behind the baby’s growth is different
• Genetics and birth weight and height directly influences the growth rate and hence a one-year-old baby is not equal to another baby of the same age with more height and weight
• The major physical and mental growth of a baby takes place in the first five years and hence this time period is very crucial
• Over 75% of boys and girls reach the zenith of their adolescent height at the age of 8-9 years
• Usually, the babies are three times heavier on their first birthday in comparison to when they are born
• The growth of a baby is not uniform throughout his/her childhood
• For the first five years, a regular track of height and weight is necessary for baby boys and girls
• Measure your baby’s height and weight once a month till he is 6-month-old and then once in two months till his first birthday. Keep slashing down the measuring frequency after one year

Why to Refer only IAP Height and Weight Charts for Babies in India?

The weight and height growth of Indian babies is different from the rest of the world due to various factors like genetics, diet, lifestyle, health conditions, physical activities and environment. Most of the Indian parents want their children’s growth and development to keep pace with their neighbor’s kids or the kids of the same age.
Some Facts Related to Growth and Development of Kids in India
• The major growth in the weight and height occurs between 0 to 18 years
• Height and weight are the parameters to calculate positive growth of babies
• Too lean or too short stature doesn’t connote a health condition
• A baby boy’s growth is different from a baby girl

Indian pediatricians recommend the parents to follow the IAP approved height weight chart for boys and girls in India. And, the sudden decrease in the growth rate can signify any health condition or poor lifestyle or nutrition of the baby.

The growth to some extent can be boosted taking care of the nutrition, everyday activities and other factors. It’s not necessary that every child will grow according to the Height and Weight chart for Indian Boys and Girls. The growth rate depends on the weight and height of the child during the time of his birth and several other reasons. However, if the growth is not proportionate after a long span of time, consulting a doctor becomes necessary.

Q&A Related to Height and Weight of Kids in India

In line with the precious study by Dr. Vaman Khadilkar, Governing council member of Pediatric & Adolescent Endocrinology chapter of Indian Academy of Pediatrics, many facts and myths have been decoded related to the children’s growth in India and Growth Hormone treatment in India. Dr. Khadilkar is a consultant pediatric Endocrinologist in Pune and the prime approver of the Growth charts of Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAP). Below are some common questions that whirl in the mind of every Indian parent with a child suffering from an abnormal growth.
Reference: Dr. Vaman Khadilkar’s Website

Does Parents’ Height Only Decide the Kid’s Height?

Though genetics is an important factor influencing a kid’s height parents’ height not always decides the kid’s height. In many cases, one or some of the family members have poor physical growth which affects the height of the progeny height.
Alteration in the diet, exercises, treatments and therapies and introduction of growth hormone can improve the growth.

What is a Normal Growth?

The growth and division of the cells in the human body boosts the growth of weight and height normally. Factors like nutrition, environment, physical activities and genetics influence this normal growth.

Can I Diagnose My Child’s Insufficient Height by Myself?

There are many parameters for self-diagnosis of short stature or insufficient physical growth. If your child’s growth is less the 6 cm every year till 4 year-age or less than 5 cm per year for 4-8 years or less than 4 cm every year before hitting the puberty then your child may be suffering from insufficient growth condition and lacking the normal level of growth hormone in the body. Sometimes, the self-diagnosis is not true and an abrupt growth is noticed after a certain age and hence consulting a doctor can be the best option.

What are the Major Elements Affecting My Child’s Height?

Different countries have a different environment, nutrition regime and lifestyles. The physical growth of a child differs in different regions. The major and common factors affecting a child’s growth include –
• Insufficient nutrition
• Hormones
• Genetics
• Precocious puberty
• Long-term diseases related to heart, lungs and kidney
• Maternal infections affecting growth from pregnancy period to adulthood

Are There Any Effective Exercises to Boost My Child’s Growth?

Exercises boost the blood circulation in the body and hence encourage growth. Physical activities always influence the growth hormone but no exercise guarantee a revved-up growth.
Read: Selected Exercises for Children to Help in Height Growth
Also Read: Foods that may Help in Height Growth in Children

What are the Tests and Check-ups Suggested After the Short Stature Diagnosis?

A pediatric endocrinologist always asks for the growth velocity of a child before confirming his growth hormone deficiency or abnormal stature. From 0 to 18 year age, the height of a person changes every year but the growth velocity of the child decides his normal or abnormal growth.
The common tests recommended for short stature diagnosis are –
• Calcium
• Urea
• Creatinine
• Hb
• Urine ph during fasting
• Phosphorus
• Urine Protein
• Serum bicarbonate
• Serum Potassium
• Serum Protein
• SGPT Stool Fat
The above-mentioned tests are Biochemical tests and a pediatric endocrinologist may prescribe some of them or few other tests before diagnosing short stature of a child. There are some medical and hormone tests as well prescribed before the diagnosis.
• Chromosome Test
• Hormone blood test
• Testosterone
• LH
• Thyroid
• Growth hormone stimulation test
• Estradiol
Apart from these tests, the doctor may ask the medical history of the child, Bone age for bone maturation measurement and the general characteristics related to his physical appearance like arm length, leg, weight, height, head circumference etc. Growth hormone detection and stimulation tests are also needed in many cases.

What are the Uses and Benefits of Growth Hormones?

HGH or Human Growth Hormone is a protein hormone originating from pituitary gland. It is also called Somatotropin. This hormone is responsible for a proportionate physical structure and a balanced metabolism. This hormone is released in the bloodstream to maintain the level of the blood glucose in the body. Normal physical growth is not the boon which everyone can leverage. The external GH is now produced using the nouveau recombinant DNA technology to control the growth in children and adults.
External GH is needed in various conditions like –
• Prader-Willi syndrome
• Turner Syndrome
• Deficiency of Growth Hormone
• Chronic Renal Failure
• Ideopathic Short Stature
• Fetal age poor growth
• Babies with low birth weight and insufficient growth even after 2 years

What if My Baby/Child is underweight?

Other than genetics or some health issues, if your child is underweight you must consult a baby’s doctor. Usually, the foods, diet schedule, physical activities, mental state has effects on child’s weight growth.
Read: Foods to Help Increase Weight in Babies

Does Immunity Have Effect on Growth?

If your child’s immunity is very weak it could be due to lack of nutritional diet, less physical activities or some health condition. To some extent, weak immunity power can affect the growth of a child.
Read: How to Improve Immunity in Children?

What are the Major Developmental Stages of a Baby?

The first stage of baby’s development is between one to three months. During this stage, your baby learns various things and understands about the convenient postures while sleeping or lying on his tummy.

The second stage is between 4 to 6 months. Baby will explore his own voice and learn the functions of his tiny hands and fingers. He will try to sit and hold objects during this phase.

The third stage can be put between 7 to 9 months when he starts crawling and doesn’t need support for sitting. He also responds to many words during this phase.

The fourth stage can be ranged between 10 to 12 months when is he all set to eat all types of solid foods and he just turned into a toddler.

Please note every baby is unique and follows own milestones. So don’t worry if your child is not showing about mentioned developments in given time frames.

How to Know if a Baby is Experiencing Slow Weight Gain?

An abrupt increase or decrease in the weight of a baby is normal. Slow weight gain in babies can be detected by the following signs:
• Babies who are 6-months-old are lesser than 5 kgs – focus on his diet or see a paediatrician
• The development of the exclusively breastfed baby is different from those who often drink formula milk
• In the first development phase (0 to 3 months), if the weight change per day is more or lesser than 30g to 40g then it’s abnormal
• Baby rejecting foods or vomiting frequently
• Specific food allergy
• Drinks juices and other liquid diet but no solid food

There is a big misconception regarding the healthy and unhealthy physique of the children in India. The Indian parents often want to see their children with a chubby body and consider it a healthy physique which is not the reality. Parents don’t consider the Growth Charts for Indian children in the initial stages and let their children grow chubby. The above chart and facts can give the right dimension and direction to an Indian baby’s growth and development.

About Author

An IT professional, a mom of two, Sapana had belly-only pregnancies in her life & has lost 15Kg weight twice. Along with fitness, Sapana is an expert in Indian names & has helped scores of Indian parents to shortlist suitable baby names by virtue of her years of expertise in Sanskrit origin names & logical approach towards cultures & trends during the name research. Drop a comment to get help from her.

Most Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What are the other methods to calculate height of the child ?

Height prediction may not be accurate, but these scientific methods can give you a fair idea of your child's future height:

  • Add the mother's and the father's height in inches or centimeters.
  • Add 5 inches or 13 centimeters for boys for girls subtract 5 inches or 13 centimeters.
  • Divide the sum by two.

This method is usually used for children below the age of four. The margin of error in Mid-Parent Rule is plus or minus 4 inches.

3. Bone-age method: This method was derived in 1959 and is considered to be more accurate than the other two methods (6). It involves x-raying the kid's left hand, fingers, and wrist. The bone age is compared to the chronological age. You cannot try this method at home but see a doctor.

Q. How Accurate Are Child Height Predictors ?

As the name suggests, the calculators only predict the height. Your child's actual height could depend on his overall health, the food he takes, his lifestyle, habits, and even the part of the world he lives in.Baby height predictors, which are based on genes, parent’s height and child’s current health, are considered to be more accurate.

Q. What Factors Determine Your Child's Future Height ?

Genes is not the only factor that could determine your child's future height. The environmental factors also have an influence on the child's height. Let's look at them in detail:

Boys tend to be taller than girls (7) because they have a delayed growth spurt at the end of their puberty. This delay gives them the advantage of two years of normal development before the final growth spurt. Till 12-13 years boys and girls have the same height, after they cross that age, girls level off, but boys continue to grow until the age of 17-18. In some cases, girls grow up to be taller than boys based on their parents' height.

In addition to the height of the parents, that of the child’s maternal and paternal grandparents influence their height.

3. Nutrition:

Having a balanced diet can help the child reach their maximum height. And a diet that lacks the required nutrients can hamper the child’s growth. If the child is eating enough, but not eating the right food then he would be low on nutrition.

4. Exercises:

Exercises are important to be fit and healthy. Besides, physical activity helps in the growth and development of your child. Lack of physical activity can restrict the child's height due to a weak bone structure. Making your child do some height enhancing exercises regularly could make him grow taller.

5. Health conditions:

Certain medical conditions such as dwarfism, gigantism, and Turner's syndrome affect the child’s height. Arthritis, celiac disease, cancer or premature birth are likely to have an adverse effect on the child.

Sources, Data, and Methodology

Climatic Data

This article employs gridded climatic data from Casty et al.—the only ones that report temperature and precipitation at the European level for years prior to 1900. These data are available on a monthly basis between 1766 and 2000 at a grid resolution of 0.5° by 0.5°, in which one grid cell represents a distance of around 55 km. The Casty data set is exceptional for a climate field reconstruction that relies on instrumental readings (avoiding multiproxy approaches and paleoclimate evidence), each climatic variable independently estimated. Gridded fields are generated by regressing a spatial network of station data against modern gridded climate data, with the consideration of certain controls, such as stationary behavior and long instrumental station data. Figure 2 reports the mean and variation (by looking at the coefficient of variation) of temperature and precipitation for the eight available grid cells that lie within the Valencian region, showing a significant amount of climatic variation across the different areas. Additionally, the statistics of the variables temperature and precipitation for the Dickey Fuller test were −4.517 and −11.818, respectively, below any of the critical values at 1 percent (−3.504) and rejecting the null hypothesis for the climatic variables. 21

Mean and Coefficient of Variation in Temperature and Rainfall in the Grid Cells of Alacant, Castelló, and València, 1800–1999

Mean and Coefficient of Variation in Temperature and Rainfall in the Grid Cells of Alacant, Castelló, and València, 1800–1999

Heights in the Region of València

The male heights for Mediterranean Spain come from military records preserved in the Sección de Quintas of eleven municipalities in the region of València—five in the province of Alacant (Alcoi, Elx, Oriola, Pego, and Villena), two in the province of Castelló (Castelló de la Plana and Villareal), and four in the province of València (Alcira, Gandia, Requena, and Sueca). The collection of data for this study comprises men born between 1850 and 1949, a total of 120,582. Beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, all Spanish men had to fulfil their military obligations, the first step being a medical examination that recorded such anthropometric measurements as height, weight, and chest circumference (although we have mostly transcribed height data). The military replacement records were accompanied by a vast array of documentation, including birth certificates, transfers into other municipalities, migration records, etc.

The Recruitment Acts (the legislation that established the age of conscription) mandated the measurement of men’s heights at the ages of twenty between 1856 and 1885 for the first draft, of nineteen between 1885 (second draft) and 1899, and of twenty between 1901 and 1905. Given that the conscripts of a given cohort were called at different ages to undergo the medical examination, we removed problems of age heaping. However, whereas a boy in a well-nourished population might reach a mature height at the age of eighteen or nineteen and a girl at the age of sixteen or seventeen, nutritional problems during growth can delay mature height until twenty to twenty-five years. Since the ages between nineteen and twenty-one leave room for growth, we standardized the heights for the different ages by calculating and comparing average heights at the fiftieth percentile of the three generations of youths measured at different ages but close in time (between 1895 and 1911). 22

Not surprisingly, our first group (those conscripted between 1895 and 1899, measured at nineteen years of age) was the shortest our second one (those conscripted between 1901 and 1905, measured at twenty years of age), was taller and our third one (those conscripted between 1907 and 1911, measured at twenty-one years of age) was the tallest. Hence, compared to those measured at the age of twenty-one, the nineteen-year-olds had a further 1.2 cm to grow and the 20-year-olds 0.4 cm we added the respective height differentials to the nineteen- and twenty-year-old recruits. We cannot use dummies to control for the rate of growth at different ages because we do not have different ages for the same cohorts, just for juxtaposed periods.

Since the data correspond to conscripted soldiers, and all men, regardless of height, had to undergo a medical examination, this conscript sample is representative of the Valencian population without any selection issues. In the data set, 92.6 percent of the conscripts were born in the region of València, 58.8 percent coming from the provinces of Alacant, 17.9 percent from Castelló, and 23.3 percent from València. We can discount the possibility of any effects of migration in the selection from the sample (for example, taller people migrating to warmer areas to seek better employment) the sample shows negligible migration patterns. According to Ayuda and Puche, about 80 percent of the conscripts were born in the municipalities where they enlisted around 10 percent had migrated to towns within the Valencian region 5 percent had migrated to the Spanish south while young (usually Murcia and Andalusia) and the remaining 5 percent were born in another country. 23

In addition to anthropometric data, military registers collected detailed information about 2,638 occupations, which we grouped into twelve categories using hisclass . Height clearly varies with social class. The tallest recruits were from upper management (above 168 cm), followed by high-level professionals, lower managers, and clerical and sales personnel (at between 196 and 167 cm), and medium- and low-skilled workers and laborers (165 cm). Farmers and fishermen were nearly the same size as unskilled farm workers at 164 cm, and the lower-skilled farm workers were the shortest recruits, at 163 cm. Although unreported herein, this range of heights closely matches a normal distribution of the heights of the total population over time. Indeed, the standard deviation of the heights across different cohorts also remains fairly constant over time. The small degree of height heaping in the sample has only a marginal effect on the estimated final height. 24

Linking Individuals to their Birthplace

We use the details about the town/city of birth to link individuals to their climatic correlates in space and time by assigning latitudes and longitudes to each soldier in accordance with his place of birth. We link climatic data to the place and the year in which an individual was born—the time at which growth is most sensitive to environmental and nutritional shock—in accordance with the growing consensus that children recover from slow growth in their first thousand days only with great difficulty. Moreover, focusing on the first year of life allows us to identify members of the same cohort, while acknowledging that final or mature height reflects the cumulative impact of environmental and nutritional conditions throughout the period of growth. 25

After geocoding all of the individuals by birthplace (Figure 3), we linked their height data with their high-resolution climatic correlates using gis (geographical information system) software (Arc gis ), performing a spatial join based on location using the Euclidean distance between the birthplace and the climatic grid point. gis analysis helps to match the individuals in the height sample (by their birthplace) with high-resolution-indexed climatic data by place and year of birth. As a result, temperature and precipitation are linked to each conscript: For man i, born in place k in year t, we attached the gridded temperature and precipitation in year t that is closest to place k with the aid of gis software. Temperature and precipitation change by birthplace, according to latitude and longitude, and time, according to year of birth.

Number of Recruits Born between 1850 and 1949 by Birthplace in the Region of València

Number of Recruits Born between 1850 and 1949 by Birthplace in the Region of València

Taller, Fatter, Older: How Humans Have Changed in 100 Years

Humans are getting taller they're also fatter than ever and live longer than at any time in history. And all of these changes have occurred in the past 100 years, scientists say.

So is evolution via natural selection at play here? Not in the sense of actual genetic changes, as one century is not enough time for such changes to occur, according to researchers.

Most of the transformations that occur within such a short time period "are simply the developmental responses of organisms to changed conditions," such as differences in nutrition, food distribution, health care and hygiene practices, said Stephen Stearns, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Yale University. [10 Things That Make Humans Special]

But the origin of these changes may be much deeper and more complex than that, said Stearns, pointing to a study finding that British soldiers have shot up in height in the past century.

"Evolution has shaped the developmental program that can respond flexibly to changes in the environment," Stearns said. "So when you look at that change the British army recruits went through over about a 100-year period, that was shaped by the evolutionary past."

And though it may seem that natural selection does not affect humans the way it did thousands of years ago, such evolutionary mechanisms still play a role in shaping humans as a species, Stearns said.

"A big take-home point of all current studies of human evolution is that culture, particularly in the form of medicine, but also in the form of urbanization and technological support, clean air and clean water, is changing selection pressures on humans," Stearns told Live Science.

"When you look at what happens when the Taliban denies the polio vaccination in Pakistan, that is actually exerting a selection pressure that is different in Pakistan than we have in New York City," he said.

Here's a look at some of the major changes to humans that have occurred in the past century or so.

(Some) people have grown taller

A recent British study, published by the Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in Bonn, Germany, showed that young men in the United Kingdom have grown by 4 inches (10 centimeters) since the turn of the 20th century.

In the study of British recruits, the average height of British men, who had an average age of 20, was about 5 feet 6 inches (168 centimeters) at the turn of the century, whereas now they stand on average at about 5 feet 10 inches (178 cm). The increase can be attributed, most likely, to improved nutrition, health services and hygiene, said the researchers from the University of Essex in Colchester.

In a number of other developed countries, people have been growing taller, too, reaching the world's current greatest average height of 6 foot 1 inch (1.85 meters) in the Netherlands. Interestingly, Americans were the tallest people in the world by World War II, measuring 5.8 feet (1.77 meters), but by the end of the 20th century, they fell behind, and the average U.S. height has stagnated, according to a study by John M. Komlos, currently a visiting professor of economics at Duke University. [Why Did Humans Grow 4 Inches in 100 Years?]

And even in some of those countries where the average height has been rising, the increase has not been uniform. For instance, people from former East Germany are still catching up height-wise with former West Germans after years of communist rule, said Barry Bogin, a professor of biological anthropology at Loughborough University in the United Kingdom. And in some non-Western countries that have been plagued by war, disease and other serious problems, average height has decreased at one point in time or another. For instance, there was a decline in the mean height among blacks in South Africa between the end of the 19th century and 1970, Bogin wrote in one of his studies, published in the Nestle Nutrition Institute workshop series in 2013. He explained that the decline was likely related to the worsening of socio-economic conditions before and during apartheid.

"It shows you the power and the generation-after-generation effects of something bad that happened to your mother gets carried on to you and your children, and it takes about five generations to overcome just one generation of starvation, or epidemic illness, or something like that," Bogin told Live Science.

Unfortunately for those individuals, height seems to improve humans' quality of life and chances of survival. For instance, in the United States, taller people make more money on average, as they are perceived as "more intelligent and powerful," according to one such study published in 2009 in the Economic Record.

Everyone is getting fat

Since the 1970s, Bogin has been studying growth patterns of Maya children and their families living in Guatemala, Mexico, and the United States. When Maya people move to the United States, their kids born here are 4.5 inches (11.4 centimeters) taller than siblings born in Mexico or Guatemala. This likely results from the accessibility of more-nutritious food in the United States, for instance, through lunch programs at schools, as well as better health care, Bogin noted. The Maya kids are also less exposed to infectious diseases, which are less common in the United States than in the countries of the parents' origin. [7 Devastating Infectious Diseases Explained]

But this increase in height comes with a high price tag.

"Not only do these Maya kids begin to look more like Americans in height, but they become even super-Americanized in their weight, by becoming overweight," Bogin told Live Science.

"People are getting fatter everywhere in the world," he said. (In 2013, 29 percent of the world's population was considered overweight or obese, according to a study published May 29 in the journal The Lancet.)

Exactly why humans are getting fatter is currently a question of heated scientific debate. Some researchers point to the traditional argument of eating too much and exercising too little as the culprit, whereas others offer alternative explanations, including the role of genetics and viruses that have been linked to obesity. The issue of excessive weight and obesity gets even more complicated, as many studies have linked being fat with poverty, which goes against a popular association of obesity and wealth.

Interestingly, the Maya kids in Indiantown, Florida, on whom Bogin focused his studies, had the highest rates of being overweight and obese of all ethnic and racial groups in the area, including Mexican-Americans, African-Americans, Haitians and European-Americans. This may have something to do with epigenetics, or heritable changes that turn genes on and off but that are not caused by changes in the DNA sequence. For instance, the environment may have caused epigenetic changes to some ethnic groups that affect how the body stores excessive energy from food, Bogin said.

"There may be an expectation that since your mother suffered and your grandmother suffered, somehow this suffering gets passed on to the current generation of children, and they kind of expect that there is going to be bad times and there is not going to be enough food," he said. "So when there are good times, eat as much as you can, and the body should preferentially store the extra energy as fat."

This mechanism of fat storage driven by a history of malnutrition or starvation may be occurring in other poor populations in the world who are becoming overweight and obese, he said.

Earlier puberty

In many countries, children mature earlier these days. The age of menarche in the United States fell about 0.3 years per decade from the mid-1800s (when girls had their first menstrual period, on average, at age 17) until the 1960s, according to a 2003 study in the journal Endocrine Reviews, which also suggested better nutrition, health and economic conditions often play roles in lowering the age of menarche. Today the average age of menarche in U.S. girls is about 12.8 to 12.9 years, according to Bogin. The onset of puberty, however, is defined as the time when a girl's breasts start to develop. In the United States, it is 9.7 years for white girls, 8.8 years for black girls, 9.3 years for Hispanic girls and 9.7 years for Asian girls.

Studies have also pointed to a link between obesity and early puberty, as girls with higher body mass indexes (BMIs) are generally more likely to reach puberty at younger ages.

"The influence of BMI on the age of puberty is now greater than the impact of race and ethnicity," Dr. Frank Biro, a professor of pediatrics at Cincinnati Children's Hospital in Ohio, told Live Science in a 2013 interview.

And earlier puberty may have long-term health consequences, Biro said. For instance, studies have suggested that girls who mature earlier are more likely than those who mature later to develop high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes later in life.

There are also social consequences of earlier puberty in some cultures, when a girl is biologically mature, she is also considered mature enough for marriage, Bogin noted. This may mean that she will not be able to continue her education or have a career once she does get married.

Therefore, the later a girl gets her first period, the better for her overall educational and life prospects. In fact, a Harvard study published in 2008 in the Journal of Political Economy showed that, in rural Bangladesh, where 70 percent of marriages occur within two years of menarche, each year that marriage is delayed corresponds to 0.22 additional year in school and 5.6 percent higher literacy.

Longevity and its bittersweet consequences

Humans are now living longer than ever, with average life expectancy across the globe shooting up from about 30 years old or so during the 20th century to about 70 years in 2012, according to the World Health Organization. The WHO predicts global life expectancy for women born in 2030 in places like the United States to soar to 85 years. The boost in life expectancy could be linked to significant advances in medicine, better sanitation and access to clean water, according to Bogin.

Although all of these factors have also greatly reduced mortality rates from infectious diseases, the deaths from degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, heart disease and cancer have been on the rise, Stearns said. In other words, people are living longer and are dying from different diseases than they did in the past.

"An American baby born in the year 2000 can expect to live 77 years and will most likely die from cardiovascular disease or cancer," Bogin said. [The Top 10 Leading Causes of Death]

As is often the case with biological advantages that humans sometimes gain, old age also comes with trade-offs.

"As more of us live longer, then more and more of us are encountering a death which is protracted and undignified," Stearns said. "So there are costs to all of this wonderful advance."

Autoimmune diseases such as multiples sclerosis and type I diabetes have also become more common, according to Stearns. Some scientists think the surge in such diseases is related to improved hygiene &mdash the same factor that has allowed people to get rid of many infectious diseases, said Joel Weinstock, chief of gastroenterology at Tufts University Medical Center in Massachusetts. When the body is not exposed to any, or very few, germs, the immune system can overreact to even benign bugs, the thinking goes.

"Our theory is that when we moved to this super-hygiene environment, which only occurred in the last 50 to 100 years, this led to immune disregulation," Weinstock told Live Science in a 2009 interview. "We're not saying that sanitation is not a good thing &mdash we don't want people to jog up to riverbanks and get indiscriminately contaminated. But we might want to better understand what factors in hygiene are healthy and what are probably detrimental, to establish a new balance and hopefully have the best of both worlds."

What is next for the human species?

It is hard so say what is in store for humans, as technology is changing the world so quickly.

"There is some fear out there that an esoteric cabal of scientists in white coats is going to take over the future of evolution with genetic engineering," Stearns said. "Whether we want to or not, we have already changed our future course of evolution, and it is not being done by some small group of people who are thinking carefully and planning, it is being done as a byproduct of thousands of daily decisions that are implemented with technology and culture."

"And we don't really know where that is going," he said, adding that, "once you accept that culture [including medicine, technology, media and transportation] has become a really strong driving force in human evolution, that is &mdash we don't know how to predict culture."

Impact of Legalization of Same-Sex Marriage

The legalization of same-sex marriage in mid-2015 may have resulted in raising the average age of first marriage in the years that followed. Long-committed couples were finally able to be legally wed. One survey in 2017 found that the average marrying age for male-male couples was 46 and for female-female couples was 36. However, the trend had been upwards for male-female couples for decades and there is no obvious change in that rate from looking at the graphs. As those long-committed couples take the plunge, the demographics of same-sex couples getting married for the first time may come to resemble those of the general population.

2. They didn’t marry young.

At the end of the 18th century, the average age of first marriage was 28 years old for men and 26 years old for women. During the 19th century, the average age fell for English women, but it didn’t drop any lower than 22. Patterns varied depending on social and economic class, of course, with working-class women tending to marry slightly older than their aristocratic counterparts. But the prevailing modern idea that all English ladies wed before leaving their teenage years is well off the mark.

The History of Child Care in the U.S.

In the United States today, most mothers of preschool and school age children are employed outside the home. American mothers have invented many ways to care for their children while they work. Native Americans strapped newborns to cradle boards or carried them in woven slings Colonial women placed small children in standing stools or go-gins to prevent them from falling into the fireplace. Pioneers on the Midwestern plains laid infants in wooden boxes fastened to the beams of their plows. Southern dirt farmers tethered their runabouts to pegs driven into the soil at the edge of their fields. White southern planters’ wives watched African American boys and girls playing in the kitchen yard while their mothers toiled in the cotton fields. African American mothers sang white babies to sleep while their own little ones comforted themselves. Migrant laborers shaded infants in baby tents set in the midst of beet fields. Cannery workers put children to work beside them stringing beans and shelling peas. Shellfish processors sent toddlers to play on the docks, warning them not to go near the water.

Mothers have left children alone in cradles and cribs, and have locked them in tenement flats and cars parked in factory lots. They have taken them to parents, grandparents, co-madres, play mothers, neighbors and strangers. They have sent them out to play with little mothers – siblings sometimes only a year or two older. They have enrolled them in summer camps and recreation programs, taken them to baby farms, given them up to orphanages and foster homes, and surrendered them for indenture. They have taken them to family day care providers and left them at home with babysitters, nannies, and nursemaids, some of them undocumented workers.

Mothers have dropped off infants and youngsters at pre-school facilities of various size and quality dressed in tatters, with smudged cheeks and stringy hair, and picked them up garbed in starched smocks, rosy-cheeked, smelling of soap. Children have been turned away because they had fevers or runny noses or lice mothers have left their jobs in the middle of the day to pick up children with ear infections, chicken pox, temper tantrums. They have parted from offspring who were howling, whimpering, whispering in the corner with friends, and found them later giggling, hungry, cranky, half-asleeep. They have walked out feeling guilty, sad, anxious, fearful, with their hearts in their mouths, without a care in the world.

Mothers have left babies dozing in carriages parked outside movie palaces, at department store day nurseries, and parking services in bowling alleys and shopping malls. Some mothers have placed their children in the care of others and never come back.

At the end of the nineteenth century, then, American child care had come to consist of a range of formal and informal provisions that were generally associated with the poor, minorities, and immigrants and were stigmatized as charitable and custodial. This pattern of practices and institutions provided a weak foundation for building twentieth-century social services. As women’s reform efforts picked up steam during the Progressive Era, however, child care became a target for reform and modernization.

The Beginnings of Child Care Reform

To draw attention to the need for child care and to demonstrate “approved methods of rearing children from infancy on,” a group of prominent New York philanthropists led by Josephine Jewell Dodge set up a Model Day Nursery in the Children’s Building at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exhibition in Chicago and then went on to found the National Federation of Day Nurseries (NFDN), the first nationwide organization devoted to this issue, in 1898.

In the meantime, reformers began to formulate another solution to the dilemma of poor mothers compelled to work outside the home: mothers’ or widows’ pensions. In the view of prominent Progressives such as Jane Addams, day nurseries only added to such women’s difficulties by encouraging them to take arduous, low-paid jobs while their children suffered from inadequate attention and care. Thus she and her Hull House colleagues, including Julia Lathrop, who would go on to become the first chief of the U.S. Children’s Bureau when it was founded in 1912, called for a policy to support mothers so they could stay at home with their children. Unlike child care, the idea of mothers’ pensions quickly gained popular support because it did nothing to challenge conventional gender roles. Indeed, some reformers argued that mothers, like soldiers, were performing a “service to the nation” and therefore deserved public support when they lacked a male breadwinner. Pensions “spread like wildfire” (quoted in Theda Skocpol, “Protecting Soldiers and Mothers: The Political Origins of Social Policy in the United States,” Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1992, p. 424) as several large national organizations, including the General Federation of Women’s Clubs and the National Congress of Mothers, mounted a highly successful state-by-state legislative campaign for such a benefit. By 1930, nearly every state in the union had passed some form of mothers’ or widows’ pension law, making this the policy of choice for addressing the needs of low-income mothers and pushing child care further into the shadows of charity.

The U.S. Children’s Bureau

Despite the rhetoric, however, mothers’ pensions could not fully address the problems of poor and low-income mothers, and many women had no alternative but to go out to work. In most states, funding for pensions was inadequate, and many mothers found themselves ineligible because of highly restrictive criteria or stringent, biased administrative practices. African American women in particular were frequently denied benefits, in the North as well as the South, on the grounds that they, unlike white women, were accustomed to working for wages and thus should not be encouraged to stay at home to rear their children. Because pension coverage was sporadic and scattered, maternal employment not only persisted but increased, adding to the demand for child care. Philanthropists were hard put to meet this growing need using private funding alone. With mothers’ pensions monopolizing the social policy agenda, however, they had no prospect of winning public funding for day nurseries.

This pattern continued into the 1920s, as the U.S. Children’s Bureau (CB) conducted a series of studies of maternal and child labor in agriculture and industry across the country. Although investigators found many instances of injuries, illnesses, and even fatalities resulting from situations in which infants and toddlers were either left alone or brought into hazardous workplaces, the CB refused to advocate for federal support for child care instead, it worked to strengthen mothers’ pensions so that more mothers could stay at home. CB officials were influenced, in part, by the thinking of experts such as the physician Douglas Thom, a proponent of child guidance who argued that “worn and wearied” wage-earning mothers who had no time for their children’s welfare stifled their development. At the same time, the reputation of day nurseries continued to slide as efforts to upgrade their educational component flagged due to lack of funds, and nursery schools, the darlings of Progressive-Era early childhood educators, began to capture the middle-class imagination.

The New Deal’s Effect on Child Care

The Depression and then World War II had a mixed impact on the fortunes of child care. On the eve of the Great Depression, fewer than 300 nursery schools were in operation, compared to 800 day nurseries, but as unemployment rose, day nursery enrollments fell sharply and charitable donations also declined, forcing 200 day nurseries to close down between 1931 and 1940. Meanwhile, at the urging of prominent early childhood educators, the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a key New Deal agency, established a program of Emergency Nursery Schools (ENS). Primarily intended to offer employment opportunities to unemployed teachers, these schools were also seen as a means of compensating for the “physical and mental handicaps” caused by the economic downturn. Nearly 3,000 schools, enrolling more than 64,000 children, were started between 1933 and 1934 over the next year, these were consolidated into 1,900 schools with a capacity for approximately 75,000 students. The program covered forty-three states and the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Unlike the earlier nursery schools, which were largely private, charged fees, and served a middle-class clientele, these free, government-sponsored schools were open to children of all classes. Designed as schools rather than as child care facilities, the ENS were only open for part of the day, and their enrollments were supposedly restricted to the children of the unemployed. They did, however, become a form of de facto child care for parents employed on various WPA work-relief projects. Unlike that of the day nurseries, the educational component of the ENS was well developed because of early childhood educators’ strong interest in the program.

Organizations such as the National Association for Nursery Education, which was eager to promulgate the ideas of progressive pedagogy, even sent in their own staff members to supervise teacher training and to oversee curricula. The educators were frustrated, however, by inadequate facilities and equipment and by difficulties in convincing teachers with conventional classroom experience to adopt a less-structured approach to working with young children. By the late 1930s, the ENS also began to suffer from high staff turnover as teachers left to take up better-paying jobs in defense plants. Between 1936 and 1942, nearly 1,000 schools were forced to close down.

Child Care and World War II

Although the approach of World War II reduced the unemployment crisis in the United States, it created a social crisis as millions of women, including many mothers, sought employment in war-related industries. Despite a critical labor shortage, the federal government was at first reluctant to recruit mothers of small children, claiming that “mothers who remain at home are performing an essential patriotic service.” Gaining support from social workers, who opposed maternal employment on psychological grounds, government officials dallied in responding to the unprecedented need for child care. In 1941 Congress passed the Lanham Act, which was intended to create community facilities in “war-impact areas,” but it was not until 1943 that this was interpreted as authorizing support for child care.

In the meantime, Congress allocated $6 million to convert the remaining ENS into child care facilities. The organization of new services bogged down in interagency competition at the federal level and in the considerable red tape involved when local communities applied for federal funding. According to the government’s own guidelines, one child care slot was required for every ten female defense workers however, when the female labor force peaked at 19 million in 1944, only 3,000 child care centers were operating, with a capacity for 130,000 children—far short of the 2 million places that were theoretically needed. Public opinion was slow to accept the dual ideas of maternal employment and child care. The popular media frequently reported on the spread of “latchkey children” and on instances of sleeping children found locked in cars in company parking lots while their mothers worked the night shift. Such stories served to castigate “selfish” wage-earning mothers rather than to point up the need for child care. At the same time, children’s experts warned parents that children in group care might suffer the effects of “maternal deprivation” and urged them to maintain tranquil home environments to protect their children from the war’s upheaval.

What child care there was did little to dispel public concerns. Hastily organized and often poorly staffed, most centers fell far short of the high standards early childhood educators had sought to establish for the ENS. One exception was the Child Service Centers set up by the Kaiser Company at its shipyards in Portland, Oregon. Architect-designed and scaled to children’s needs, they offered care twenty-four hours a day (to accommodate night-shift workers), a highly trained staff, a curriculum planned by leading early childhood experts, and even a cooked-food service for weary parents picking up their children after an arduous shift. Despite its inadequacies, federally sponsored New Deal and wartime child care marked an important step in American social provision. Congress, however, was wary of creating permanent services and repeatedly emphasized that public support would be provided “for the duration only.”

Soon after V-J Day, funding for the Lanham Act was cut off, forcing most of the child care centers to shut down within a year or two. But the need for child care persisted, as maternal employment, after an initial dip due to postwar layoffs, actually began to rise. Across the country, national organizations like the Child Welfare League of America, along with numerous local groups, demonstrated and lobbied for continuing public support. These groups failed to persuade Congress to pass the 1946 Maternal and Child Welfare Act, which would have continued federal funding for child care, but they did win public child care provisions in New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. and in California. During the Korean War, Congress approved a public child care program but then refused to appropriate funds for it.

After World War II

Finally, in 1954, Congress found an approach to child care it could live with: the child care tax deduction. This permitted low- to moderate-income families (couples could earn up to $4,500 per year) to deduct up to $600 for child care from their income taxes, provided the services were needed “to permit the taxpayer to hold gainful employment.” The tax deduction offered some financial relief to certain groups of parents, but reformers were not satisfied, for such a measure failed to address basic issues such as the supply, distribution, affordability, and quality of child care. In 1958, building on the experience they had gained in lobbying for postwar provisions, activists formed a national organization devoted exclusively to child care, the Inter-City Committee for Day Care of Children (ICC, later to become the National Committee on the Day Care of Children). The organization was led by Elinor Guggenheimer, a longtime New York City child care activist Sadie Ginsberg, a leader of the Child Study Association of America Cornelia Goldsmith, a New York City official who had helped establish a licensing system for child care in that city and Winifred Moore, a child care specialist who had worked in both government and the private sector. Unlike its predecessor, the National Federation of Day Nurseries (which had been absorbed by the Child Welfare League of America in 1942), the ICC believed that private charity could not provide adequate child care on its own instead, the new organization sought to work closely with government agencies like the U.S. Children’s Bureau and the U.S. Women’s Bureau to gain federal support.

The ICC experimented with a number of different rationales for child care, generally preferring to avoid references to maternal employment in favor of stressing the need to “safeguard children’s welfare.” In 1958 and 1959, the ICC helped mobilize grassroots support for several child care bills introduced into Congress by Senator Jacob Javits (R–New York), but to no avail. The ICC did succeed in convincing the CB and WB to cosponsor a National Conference on the Day Care of Children in Washington, D.C., in November 1960. At that conference, several government officials pointed to the growing demand for labor and to what now appeared to be an irreversible trend toward maternal employment, but many attendees continued to express ambivalence about placing young children in group care. Guggenheimer, however, noted that mothers would work “whether good care is available or not. It is the child,” she emphasized, “that suffers when the care is poor.” Guggenheimer did not call directly for government support for child care, but she made it clear that private and voluntary agencies could no longer shoulder the burden.

The CB and WB, under the direction of chiefs appointed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, were reluctant to take the lead on this issue, but the president-elect, John F. Kennedy, in a message to the conference, expressed his awareness of the problem, stating, “I believe we must take further steps to encourage day care programs that will protect our children and provide them with a basis for a full life in later years.” Kennedy’s message, along with subsequent statements, implied that his administration sought a broad-based approach to child care. In a widely circulated report, the President’s Commission on the Status of Women acknowledged that maternal employment was becoming the norm and pointed out that child care could not only help women who decided to work outside the home but also serve as a developmental boon to children and help advance social and racial integration. But the Kennedy administration could not muster sufficient political support to push through a universal child care policy.

Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC)

Instead, in two welfare reform bills, passed in 1962 and 1965, Congress linked federal support for child care to policies designed to encourage poor and low-income women to enter training programs or take employment outside the home. The goal was to reduce the number of Americans receiving “welfare” (Aid to Families with Dependent Children, or AFDC) and prevent women from becoming recipients in the first place. From 1969 to 1971, a coalition of feminists, labor leaders, civil rights leaders and early childhood advocates worked with Congress to legislate universal child care policy, but their efforts failed when President Nixon vetoed the Comprehensive Child Development Act of 1971. As a result, for the next three decades, direct federal support for child care was limited to policies “targeted” on low-income families. At the same time, however, the federal government offered several types of indirect support to middle- and upper-class families in the form of tax incentives for employer-sponsored child care and several ways of using child care costs to reduce personal income taxes.

The Reagan Era and Welfare Reform in the 1990s

In the 1980s, under the Reagan administration the balance of federal child care funding shifted, as expenditures for low-income families were dramatically reduced while those benefiting middle- and high-income families nearly doubled. Such measures stimulated the growth of voluntary and for-profit child care, much of which was beyond the reach of low-income families. These families received some help from the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), passed in 1990, which allocated $825 million to individual states. The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 replaced AFDC with time-limited public assistance coupled with stringent employment mandates. Acknowledging the need for expanded child care to support this welfare-to-work plan, Congress combined CCDBG, along with several smaller programs, into a single block grant—the Child Care and Development Fund.

Although more public funds for child care were available than ever before, problems of supply and quality continue to limit access to child care for welfare recipients who are now compelled to take employment, and moderate-income families must cope with ever-rising costs for child care. For all families, the quality of child care is compromised by the high rate of turnover among employees in the field, in itself the result of low pay and poor benefits. Because of its long history and current structure, the American child care system is divided along class lines, making it difficult for parents to unite and lobby for improved services and increased public funding for child care for all children. When it comes to public provisions for children and families, the United States compares poorly with other advanced industrial nations such as France, Sweden, and Denmark, which not only offer free or subsidized care to children over three but also provide paid maternity or parental leaves. Unlike the United States, these countries use child care not as a lever in a harsh mandatory employment policy toward low-income mothers] but as a means of helping parents of all classes] reconcile the demands of work and family life.

For more information, refer to Dr. Michel’s book, Children’s Interests/Mothers’ Rights: The Shaping of America’s Child Care Policy.

How to Cite this Article (APA Format): Michel, S. (2011). The history of child care in the U.S. Social Welfare History Project. Retrieved from

19 Replies to &ldquoThe History of Child Care in the U.S.&rdquo

This Article made me really think about how far child care in America has come. While it has advance tremendously this article kind of makes you over look everything and search for answers on why child care was even such a questionable thing back then. It’s clear that these mothers will most of them anyways really had no choice but to work in order to provide and the fact that it was questioned and looked down on is just beyond words. Anyways with that being said thanks to all the amazing people out there that still fought for all these children and their mothers in order to make their lives a little less stressful.

It is heartening to know that no matter how low the pay, or how difficult the challenges, there have always been education leaders who have provided excellent early childhood care that all children deserve.

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