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Hutterite Families

The House Child

The sequence and details of childcare were originally described by Hutterite leader Peter Riedemann in 1545 and are basically still followed. Because Hutterites generally adhere to the old rules, their childcare has changed far less than that of the outside world and remains generally untouched by Freudian psychology and other thinking (Huntington 1997). However, since about 1980, some modernizing influences have been noted. Parents now toilet-train their children at about age two rather than at three months; nursing may go all the way to the second birthday, but solid foods are introduced somewhere between six and twelve months (Ingoldsby 2001), whereas it used to be as early as one month after birth (Hostetler 1974).

When the child is an infant, the mother's female relatives commonly visit and care for both the new mother and the infant. The mother is allowed time off from her regular duties to attend to the needs of her newborn infant and to recover from the pregnancy.

The late infancy stage is a time for the house child to venture beyond the mother to a greater range of peers and associations within the colony. When the child gets a little older, the mother is reassigned back to her original job, and so the rest of the community helps to raise the child. In effect, the colony becomes a large extended family tending to the needs and welfare of the young Hutterite (Stanton 1989).

In the Middle Ages the Hutterites believed that "as soon as the mother hath weaned the child she giveth it to the school." Today the nuclear family is not so limited in its functions, but the schools do play a large part in the lives of Hutterite youth (Hostetler 1974).

Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaMarriage: Cultural AspectsHutterite Families - Kinship Structure, The House Child, Kindergarten, School, Adolescence, Marriage, Fertility, Later Life