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Girlhood and Motherhood

  • By: Agata Wilkins
  • In: Encyclopedia of Motherhood
  • Edited by: Andrea O'Reilly
  • Subject:Sociology of Gender, Parenting, Maternal Health

Girlhood has historically been considered a transition period between childhood and womanhood (as the period preceding motherhood), ending around the time a young woman started menstruating and became able to bear children and get married. Motherhood and girlhood are related in three significant ways: first, in the relations of mothers and daughters; second, in modes of girlish behavior that imitates motherhood and serves as a preparation for it; and third, they intersect in the category of teenage mothers.

Emergence of Girlhood

Girlhood as a distinct category and set of particular experiences did not emerge until the mid-19th century among the middle and upper classes of the Western world. Up until that point, children were almost exclusively considered miniature adults, and until the age of 6 or so, ...

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