Parenting in the 60s: A Groovy Throwback to Raising Kids

Krystal DeVille

Parenting in the 60s.

The 1960s, an era marked by the rise of the baby boomers, was a transformative period in American history. As these boomers transitioned from young adults, the dynamics within many families shifted dramatically. The parenting style of the ’60s was distinct, a mix of traditional values and new-age approaches, which collectively ruled American parenting during this era. Let’s take a groovy throwback and explore how these trends and challenges have left an indelible mark today.

Cultural and Social Environment of the 60s

The 1960s was a time of significant cultural and social change in the United States. This decade was marked by various historical events. These milestones include the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, and the rise of new political and social movements that shaped the nation and family life.

Changing Family Dynamics

In the 60s, family dynamics underwent a significant shift. Various types of families emerged, such as single-parent families and households with stay-at-home dads.

Parting Relationships: During this period, divorce rates increased, and there was a rise in cohabiting unmarried couples. These changes were largely influenced by a growing emphasis on individual freedom and the pursuit of happiness.

Stay At Home Dads: The role of fathers in the 60s shifted significantly. More dads became involved in their children’s upbringing. Unlike previous generations, fathers started participating in their children’s activities. This led to the emergence of the concept of a “new father.”

The Role of Women in Society

The 1960s was a crucial decade for the Women’s Liberation Movement, which sought to challenge traditional views on the roles of women in both society and the family. As women fought for equal rights and status in the workforce, there was a parallel change in the expectations and roles of mothers at home.

Career Women: More mothers spent their lives pursuing careers, leading to a rise in working mothers. This shift in the role of women challenged the long-standing belief that a mother’s place was solely in the home and only tasked with rearing children. Despite these advancements, women still faced societal pressures and judgments from their peers and the media about balancing work and family life.

Media Influence

When it comes to media influence, the media of the 1960s played a vital role in shaping family life and childhood experiences. TV shows, music, and movies often depicted idealized nuclear families and portrayed popular culture, rebelliousness, and activism. Some of the television shows of the time reflected traditional family values. Meanwhile, others started to break the mold and showcase changing family dynamics like single-parent households.

Child Rearing Practices

Discipline and Autonomy

In the 1960s, parenting was more structured and conservative than it is today. Discipline was considered essential for raising well-behaved kids, and corporal punishment was a common form of discipline. Parents believed that setting strict boundaries and swiftly punishing disobedience would help mold their children into responsible adults. As a result, kids in the 60s had less autonomy experiencing a more restrictive upbringing.

On the other hand, kids also had more freedom to explore and play outside than kids nowadays. Unsupervised play was standard, parents allow kids to learn independence and problem-solving skills without constant parental intervention. Playdates were not as structured as today, with kids generally allowed to spend their free time with neighborhood friends.

Education and Play

Child care and education in the 60s were not as focused on early learning and structured activities as we see today. Kids were given more time and space for unstructured play and independence. However, this does not imply a total lack of investment in children’s education. Homework with little research and structured learning did play a role in child rearing but without the intense pressure of today’s competitive schooling environment.

Instead of participating in tightly scheduled extracurricular activities, children and the whole family in the 60s often engaged in various leisure activities, such as:

  • Riding bicycles
  • Exploring nature
  • Playing games with friends in the neighborhood

Here’s a table highlighting the differences to the role of parents in education and play from the 1960s to the 2000s.

Role of Parents in EducationLess involvement in the day-to-day education. Parents primarily engaged during parent-teacher meetings.Increased parental involvement in education, including homeschooling and active participation in school activities.
CurriculumStandardized curriculum with a strong focus on basics like reading, writing, and arithmetic.Broader curriculum including technology, global awareness, and diverse subjects.
Technology in EducationLimited use of technology. Primarily textbooks and blackboards.Widespread use of computers, internet, and interactive educational tools.
Play PhilosophyPlay seen as a separate activity from learning, often unstructured and outdoors.Integration of play with learning. Emphasis on educational toys and electronic games.
Toys and GamesTraditional toys like dolls, action figures, board games, and outdoor play.Rise of digital and electronic gaming, educational software, and internet-based activities.

Health and Safety Awareness

Portrait Of Family Relaxing On Sofa Together.
Image Credit: Deposit Photos

Medical Advances

During the 1960s, there were significant advancements in health and safety, especially concerning pregnancy and childbirth. Mothers-to-be had access to prenatal care, and breastfeeding gradually gained recognition for its multiple benefits. Around the same period, the healthcare sector witnessed breakthroughs such as vaccinations and infant delivery improvements.

Emerging Safety Concerns

Despite the notable progress, the 1960s also saw numerous health and safety concerns. For instance, smoking was prevalent among both adults and pregnant women, exposing them and their children to harmful secondary smoke. People back then had little understanding of the long-term health consequences.

A primary concern was the lack of safety measures, particularly in vehicles. Before mandatory seat belts, parents often used their arms as restraints when braking suddenly, placing their children at risk. Furthermore, infant car seats were not as securely fastened as they are today.

Good To Know: The growing awareness about health and safety during the 1960s led to reforms and better practices. However, it is essential to recognize that medical and safety innovations have come a long way, leaving some of the 1960s practices outdated and even hazardous by today’s standards.

Economic Conditions and Family Life

Young business woman busy mom with kids.
Image Credit: Deposit Photos

Parental Workforce Participation

During the 1960s, the workforce landscape began to change. The traditional family structure at the time involved dads working outside the home while moms cared for the children and household duties. However, in this decade, there was a significant increase in women joining the workforce.

Household Economics

In the 1960s, managing money and providing for the family was a main concern. Economic conditions during this time played a significant role in shaping family life. Social security benefits were lower, and many relied on traditional pensions for retirement. Listed below are a few key financial aspects of this period:

  1. Housing: Average home prices were considerably lower, but so were salaries. Home buying often depended on the support of extended family members.
  2. Transportation: Car ownership was less prevalent, and public transportation was a more common option for families on a tighter budget.
  3. Groceries: Families in the 1960s spent a larger portion of their income on groceries, including basics such as meat, dairy products, and bread.
  4. Healthcare costs: While healthcare costs were generally lower, insurance coverage was also less comprehensive. Families would often cover medical expenses out-of-pocket.

As seen through these trends, families in the 1960s navigated different economic and workforce challenges than today’s households. Both moms and dads adapted to their roles within the family unit as workforce participation fluctuated and household budget management evolved.

Impact of Technology and Media

Family with toddlers watching TV.
Image Credit: Deposit Photos

In the 1960s, the landscape of technology and media vastly differed from what we experience today. Back then, the primary forms of media were:

  • Television
  • Radio
  • Print

Although these forms of media had their own effects on parenting and child development, the impact was less pervasive compared to the digital age.

1. Providing Educational Content: One positive aspect of media during the 60s was its ability to provide families with educational content through television programs like Sesame Street. This helped children acquire new knowledge and supported their development. It’s worth noting, however, that cyberbullying wasn’t an issue at that time, since the Internet was still in the early stages of conception and far from becoming a mainstream medium.

2. Face to Face Interaction: Parents in the 60s didn’t need to worry about regulating their children’s Internet usage, as the medium was largely inaccessible to the general public. This allowed for more face-to-face interaction with their children, strengthening parent-child bonds. During this period, parents mainly focused on participating in family activities and promoting outdoor play to help their children build a healthy sense of self.

3. Stronger Family Bonds: Despite the limited media and technology available in the 60s, these resources still managed to shape children’s ego and personality development. Exposure to media celebrities on television and in print provided role models for children to emulate and learn from, both positively and negatively. This helped shape their growing identities and sense of self.

Frequently Asked Questions

How did the cultural and social environment of the 60s influence parenting styles?

The 1960s, a period of significant cultural and social changes due to movements like civil rights and women’s liberation, influenced parents to adopt more liberal child-rearing practices. This era’s focus on individual freedom and happiness led to diverse family dynamics and a shift in traditional roles.

What were some common child-rearing practices in the 60s?

Child-rearing in the 60s involved a blend of structured discipline and freedom. While corporal punishment was common, children also enjoyed more unsupervised outdoor play. This era emphasized less structured playdates and education, allowing children more independence and less academic pressure.

How did the role of women in the 60s impact family life and parenting?

The Women’s Liberation Movement in the 60s challenged traditional roles, leading to more women pursuing careers and becoming working mothers. This shift caused a reevaluation of a mother’s role in the family, balancing work and childcare, and impacting the dynamic within the household.

In what ways did the technology and media of the 60s affect parenting and child development?

Limited to television, radio, and print, 60s media impacted parenting less pervasively than today’s digital platforms. Programs like “Sesame Street” provided educational content, and the absence of the internet allowed for more in-person family interactions, contributing to stronger parent-child bonds.


As we’ve learned, the 1960s was a pivotal era in parenting history, marked by profound societal shifts and evolving family dynamics. The 60s introduced more involved parenting roles, particularly with the rise of working mothers and the redefined roles of fathers, setting the stage for modern parenting philosophies.

As we look back, the 1960s stand as a crucial link in the ongoing evolution of parenting. It reminds us that while the tools and contexts may change, the core principles of nurturing, guiding, and preparing children for the future remain timeless. The legacy of 60s parenting — a mix of structure and independence — continues to influence and inform our approaches to raising the next generation.

About Krystal DeVille

Hello! I’m Krystal DeVille. By day, I wear many hats: a homeschool teacher, wife, and mother. By night, I’m a fervent journalist, pouring my thoughts and experiences onto paper. Parenthood, for me, has been an exhilarating roller-coaster filled with emotions, invaluable lessons, and moments of sheer joy. With three wonderful kids of my own, I’ve journeyed through the highs and lows — from sleepless nights to their very first steps and those unforgettable proud parent moments.

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