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Döden går igen: Moder- och faderlösa barn i bondesamhället kring år 1800
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of History.
2011 (Swedish)In: Historisk Tidskrift (S), ISSN 0345-469X, Vol. 3, no 131, 511-539 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The article is a pilot study dealing with long-term effects of parental loss among children in preindustrial Sweden. A cohort investigation of fully 1 200 individuals born in a Swedish rural parish between 1788 and 1810 was undertaken, showing that by the age of 15, one quarter (298 persons) had lost either one or both parents. Of these individuals, 112 had lost their mother, 138 their father, and 48 both parents. Not surprisingly, the orphaned turned out to be a very vulnerable group. Even in adulthood many of them lived unstable lives with frequent moves in and out of the parishes. A large part of them disappeared from the records at a young age and consequently the subgroup was excluded from further analysis. Otherwise, motherless children were the ones who deviated most from the control group. They left home at lower ages than both fatherless children and children with both parents alive. Also, fewer of them survived until the age of 35 or 55, respectively. This difference was as evident within the group of landholding farmers as among the landless, which indicates that economic factors were not solely responsible. It is known from previous studies that gender boundaries in agrarian society were more easily crossed by women than by men. This may have made it harder for fathers to take over the social and psychological functions of the mother than vice versa. Thus, beside the economic hardship which sometimes followed the loss of a parent, motherless children may have experienced a deteriorated emotional environment which may have influenced their later lives. Medical and psychological studies of modern populations show that the early loss of a parent has impacts on the individual’s capacity of coping with social and physical stress in adulthood and old age. The article suggests that the impact of such “soft factors” should be taken into account when studying life courses in historical populations as well. It is also concluded that a further understanding of the parental loss in preindustrial society must involve a discussion of the social constructions of motherhood and fatherhood. Such issues need to be dealt with through qualitative as well as quantitative approaches.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm, 2011. Vol. 3, no 131, 511-539 p.
Keyword [en]
orphans, mothers, fathers, children, gender, peasant society, 18th century, 19th century, Sweden
National Category
History and Archaeology
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-62561OAI: diva2:443012
Swedish Research Council, 2008-6905
Available from: 2011-09-27 Created: 2011-09-23 Last updated: 2011-09-27Bibliographically approved

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