Human Bonding: Parents and Their Offspring in Early Modern England

Jun 1997 | 017

Authors: Ilana Krausman Ben-Amos

The English family in the early modern period is viewed in the perspective of reciprocity: an exchange of goods that involves giving and obtaining something in return. Reciprocal interactions between parents and children extended throughout the life course and were not confined to infancy or early childhood. The exchange could be delayed, and its timing and duration varied between social groups and across time. It was unequal: the parental investment was large, and the returns were uncertain and less extensive. The exchanges involved a wide range of material and emotional goods: support, affection, prestige, reputation. Reciprocity was not simply granted, but rather it was negotiated and induced with gifts and in other less tangible ways.

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