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JAMA 100 Years Ago
November 21, 2007

THE DISAPPEARING CHILDREN.

Author Affiliations
 

JAMA 100 Years Ago Section Editor: Jennifer Reiling, Assistant Editor.

JAMA. 2007;298(19):2319. doi:10.1001/jama.298.19.2319

It is not often that a fashion journal touches so serious or so important a topic as the gradual disappearance of the child from American families, but an excellent review of the curious situation developing in this regard appears in the November number of the Delineator. We have been a little surprised that it has not given rise to more comment, for it contains some startling details. Mrs. Lydia K. Commander, who for some years has made a special study of this subject and has written on it on various occasions, calls attention to the fact that probably 2,000,000 American homes are without a child. Her statistics are founded on the recent report of a Massachusetts investigation, which shows that about one out of the six homes [sic] in the State of Massachusetts is without a child. It is acknowledged that probably conditions are worse in Massachusetts than elsewhere, and so an allowance of 30 per cent. is made for the rest of the country. Even with this, however, the results are striking. On this basis there are over 2,000,000 families who not only are without children but have never had children. A little more than one hundred years ago it was calculated that children formed one-third of the population of the country. According to the latest census there were about 180,000,000 children in the country, which is less than one-fourth of the population. This difference does not seem to be much, but in cold figures it amounts to 7,000,000 children. Of course in the meantime many adults have been admitted as immigrants and this has somewhat lessened the proportion that should exist in the matter, but there are at least 5,000,000 additional children that would be with us if anything like the old family life of our great-grandmothers' times still survived.

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