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Project Overview

The research project “Religion and Childhood. Socialisation from the Roman Empire to Christian World” (2009 – 2012) aims at a comparative, broad approach to the processes and factors of childhood socialisation and the integration of a child to the social structures. We focus on three main themes: the individual child, family, community and their agents and objects in the process of socialisation; the influence of gender and social status on the integration; and the viewpoint of longue durée from Antiquity to the Middle Ages.

In the project's context socialisation is understood as a two-way process, in which the child has an active role as well, and, according to our hypothesis, religion played an important part in both the family group and the society at large. In the case of an individual child, the informal instruction and stimulus given by parents, neighbours and relatives among the daily practicalities formed the basis of socialisation.

Since the concept socialisation is the main tool for our research, the project examines the kind of practices and rituals used to make children accustomed to the norms and values of the family, community and wider society. What were the roles of different actors – child, family and community – in transmitting and internalising cultural values? In which ways religion and devotion were a means, and in which ways an end in the processes of socialisation? We will also focus on the significance of gender in the process of socialisation by asking how children were socialised to become men and women of a certain social status, and what aspects of masculinity and femininity were encouraged and what reduced. As the project also seeks to check the claims of either change or stability in attitudes towards children from the ‘pagan’ to the ‘Christian’ world and from the High to the Late Middle Ages, we will compare the material on both sides of the assumed discontinuities to form a picture of the possible effect Christianity had on the way the transmission of religious values and norms was organised, and whether a more general pre-modern trend in socialising children can be found.

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