1960’s and Children: Hippy Freedom and Rapid Social Change
"Turn on, tune in, drop out.” – Timothy Leary (1966).
The 1960’s – A Time of Great Social Upheaval
In 1966, at the height of the 1960’s hippy counterculture , Timothy Leary, a ex-Harvard University psychology professor, told a gathering of over thirty thousand hippies in San Francisco to "Turn on, tune in, drop out.” While the quote is open to interpretation, it encapsulated the 1960’s emphasis on personal freedom which would help define the way children were raised and lived during the period.
The 1960’s were a time of revolutionary change in the Unites States and around the world. The beginning of the Vietnam War, the rise of the counterculture, the enthusiastic success of space exploration and the depressing assassinations of major leaders like JFK were all part of a tumultuous decade that saw rapid social change.
Children in the 1960’s were raised in a unique period, with unbelievable amounts of freedom, and had to deal with the associated dangers and problems of the period including drug abuse, rising divorce rates and increased household mobility.
Dr. Benjamin Spock – Parenting Guru Encouraged Affection
Dr. Benjamin Spock Sold 50 Million Books Advocating Freedom and Positive Feedback for Children
Parenting in the 1960’s was heavily influenced by Dr. Benjamin Spock, a pediatrician who wrote books that encouraged parents to follow their instincts and
give children the freedom to make mistakes. Spock’s ideas were simple, including giving children adequate attention and praise, but were considered radical at the time. His book Baby and Child Care sold over 50 million copies, and many of the laid back “hippy” methods of parenting of the 1960’s can be attributed to his parenting philosophy.
Parenting Was Much More “Laid Back and Hippy Style”
In an article for CNN special coverage on the 1960’s, Kelly Wallace addressed the major differences between the way children were raised in the 1960’s and today:
Back then, we didn't have playdates. You went out in the yard or you went
out in the street and played," my mom told me with a chuckle. Today, my kids have piano, soccer, basketball, gymnastics and hip-hop dance. How do you spell overscheduled? (Wallace, 2014, n.p.).
Interviewing children who grew up in the 1960’s, who are parents today, Wallace discovered most looked back at the 1960’s with nostalgia because it “was much simpler without the education that we have now and the devices. I think I prefer the carefree method more than scared-of-everything-we-eat-and-even-our-shadows.” Children in the 1960’s were encouraged to learn through discovery, to explore their world, and express their emotions. The environment was much more relaxed and free-spirited than previous generations.
The Development of Governmental Child Welfare Social Agencies
However, the 1960’s also saw the development of social agencies devoted to child welfare and safety. According to sociologist John E.B. Myers, 1962 was officially the beginning of the era of “government sponsored child protective services” (Myers, 1998, p. 2) . According to Myers, child sexual abuse was still “largely invisible” until the 1970’s, but the 1960’s saw the beginning of a child welfare system in the U.S.
The Hippy Counterculture Pioneered New Educational Systems
A hippy family reading bedtime stories at the Mystic Arts commune reading bedtime stories in Sunny Valley, Oregon, in 1969. Many children were home schooled in the 1960’s.
Academic research that focuses on the social developments of the 1960’s also reinforce the idea that the 1960’s were a time when “college-educatedparents adopted child-centered, democratic, and egalitarian parenting styles” (Franz & McClelland, 1994, p. 196). This also impacted the educational environment. Children were increasingly home-schooled or attended non-traditional schools such as commune based “open schools” or Montessori schools. Children were given more freedom to choose what they learned in “discovery based” education with freedom to move around the classroom.
Conclusion – The 1960’s Were a Time of Freedom and Beginning of the Era of Child Welfare Agencies
In conclusion, the counter culture “Hippy” movement influenced almost every aspect of life, including education. The hippy subculture was all about youth, and their emphasis on freedom and rebellion had a major influence on the way children lived in the 1960’s. Many consider the 1960’s as a time of rapid moral change and liberalism after the conservative repression and sedation of the 1950’s. Around the world, the 1960’s were a time when children were allowed more freedom, but at the same time there were fundamental concerns about child welfare that began a new era of child protective research, laws, and services.
Franz, C. E., & McClelland, D. C. (1994). Lives of women and men active in the social protests of the 1960s: A longitudinal study. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 66(1), 196.
Myers, J. E. (2008). Short History of Child Protection in America, A. Fam. LQ,42, 449.
Wallace, K. (2014, August 25). Longing for the carefree parenting style of yesterday? CNN. Retrieved July 8, 2015, from http://www.cnn.com/2014/05/09/living/motherhood-now-vs-then-parents/