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Female Adolescence in American Scientific Thought, 1830–1930

, 344 pages
August 2007



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Female Adolescence in American Scientific Thought, 1830–1930

In this groundbreaking study, Crista DeLuzio asks how scientific experts conceptualized female adolescence in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Revisiting figures like G. Stanley Hall and Margaret Mead and casting her net across the disciplines of biology, psychology, and anthropology, DeLuzio examines the process by which youthful femininity in America became a contested cultural category.

Challenging accepted views that professionals "invented" adolescence during this period to understand the typical experiences of white middle-class boys, DeLuzio shows how early attempts to reconcile that conceptual category with "femininity" not only shaped the social science of young women but also forced child development experts and others to reconsider the idea of adolescence itself.

DeLuzio’s provocative work permits a fuller understanding of how adolescence emerged as a "crisis" in female development and offers insight into why female adolescence remains a social and cultural preoccupation even today.

Crista DeLuzio is an assistant professor of history at Southern Methodist University.

"A major contribution to many overlapping fields of scholarship—the history of childhood, women, developmental psychology, and education. It displays remarkable erudition and promises to substantially deepen our understanding of the contribution of social scientists in constructing the representation of adolescent girls in the past two centuries."

"It is interdisciplinary history at its best and, I might add, 'gendered' history at its finest... It makes an original contribution to the nearly constant struggle by historians (and parents, for that matter) to define, explain, and understand the construction of youth and adolescence in American life."

"A thoroughly researched and arresting synthesis of the medico-social views of female adolescence over the crucial period 1830–1930, when American views of adolescence were formulated. DeLuzio's scholarship here is exemplary and she has chosen and assembled the important texts and analyzed them with great insight."

"DeLuzio exhibits a masterful understanding of the range of ideas shaping concepts of female adolescence in America from the mid-nineteenth century through the first half of the twentieth century... The most comprehensive study of the topic to date. "

"DeLuzio... breaks new ground in her assiduous examination of the relationship between science and society by using age and gender as dynamically connected categories of analysis... A broad cross-section of scholars is likely to find DeLuzio's 'essay on sources' particularly valuable for future research."

"Deluzio skillfully weaves together social history and the intellectual history of science to show how ideas about age, drawn from nineteenth century views of social progress, intertwined with explanations of gender differences to construct the adolescent girl... This complex book will be the standard reference for those who want to know the scientific origins of modern perspectives on adolescent development."

" Female Adolescence in American Scientific Thought addresses historians of childhood, medicine, and human science, but scholars of women and gender will also find it valuable."