Pediatrics is the specialty of medicine in which practitioners focus on the physical, mental, and social health of children. In focusing on the whole child, pediatricians’ work includes treating physical illnesses, assessing children’s development, and advocating for children’s well-being. This medical field is critical to the history of childhood in that pediatricians have played increasingly important roles as advisors and experts on children’s health, development, and well-being.

Beginning with a brief history of pediatrics before 1800, this entry traces shifts that have occurred within pediatrics from its formation as a professional field in the mid-19th century. It examines physicians’ response to infant mortality; the rise of pediatric hospitals and subspecialties; preventive care, including vaccines; and treatment. All these shifts have been influenced by broader social ...

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