Parenthood in Early Twentieth-Century America Project (PETCAP), 1900-1944 (ICPSR 6876)

Version Date: Aug 11, 2009 View help for published

Principal Investigator(s): View help for Principal Investigator(s)
Ralph LaRossa, Georgia State University

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The purpose of this data collection was to provide information on parenting in general and on fathers' roles in particular in the early part of the twentieth century in the United States. The collection comprises transcriptions of original handwritten and published materials relating to infant and child care dating from the turn of the century into World War II. There are three types of data in the collection: (1) popular magazine articles, (2) letters to educator and author Angelo Patri (1876-1965) and his replies, and (3) letters to the United States Children's Bureau, along with the Bureau's replies. The popular magazine data files include transcriptions of original magazine articles indexed under the READER'S GUIDE TO PERIODICAL LITERATURE categories of "father," "mother," and "parent," published between 1900 and 1942. In addition to the text of the articles, other information contained in each data file includes the author of the article, index classification (father, mother, or parent), year the article was published, magazine name and volume number, and gender of the article's author. The Children's Bureau data include advice-seeking letters from fathers and mothers and the Bureau's replies, written between 1915 and 1944. Beyond the actual text of the letters, other information includes the initials and title of the letter's author, location of the letter within the National Archives (box number), Bureau subject classification codes for the box that the letter came from, time period covered by the letters in the box, Bureau subject classification code(s) for each letter, date of the letter, return address (city and state), and gender of the letter's author. Also included are the name of the Children's Bureau staff member who wrote the reply, the date of the reply, and the text of the reply itself. The Angelo Patri data include the text of advice-seeking letters from both fathers and mothers and Patri's replies to them, as well as Patri's newspaper columns and scripts from his radio show. The Patri letters were primarily written between 1924 and 1939. Other information in each Patri data file includes the location of the document in the Library of Congress (box number and date), date of the letter, return address (city and state), gender of the author of the letter, and date of the reply.

LaRossa, Ralph. Parenthood in Early Twentieth-Century America Project (PETCAP), 1900-1944. Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2009-08-11.

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National Science Foundation (SES-8812583)
Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research

1900 -- 1944
1988 -- 1993
  1. This data collection consists of 1,428 ASCII DOS text files.

  2. The data files constitute transcriptions of original handwritten letters and printed magazine articles. When a word or phrase could not be deciphered, the code "[*]" was inserted into the transcribed text by the principal investigator's staff. Spelling and grammatical errors in the original materials were retained in the transcribed text.

  3. These data files were originally deposited in WordPerfect 5 format, but have been converted by ICPSR to ASCII DOS text file format. As well, the original codebook has been converted by ICPSR to a PDF file.


The popular magazine articles were selected from articles indexed in the READER'S GUIDE TO PERIODICAL LITERATURE from 1900 to 1942 and intended to be theoretically relevant, that is, the articles provided valuable direct or indirect information on the subject of fatherhood and, in the cases of the "mother" and "parent" index subject categories, offered interesting similarities or differences compared to articles in the "father" subject category. Approximately 67 percent of the indexed articles are in the PETCAP dataset (222 files: 150 father classification articles, 50 mother classification articles, and 22 parent classification articles). The Children's Bureau data (215 files) were selected from over 1,000 boxes of letters. Boxes that had a high probability of containing letters pertaining to fatherhood were identified. Letters of interest to the principal investigator, according to their Children's Bureau subject classifications, were selected. The Angelo Patri data were selected from the 90 boxes of material in the Patri collection. The principal investigator estimates that there are over 7,000 letters in the archive collection and that 8 percent were written by fathers. Almost every letter from fathers was included in this data collection and a sample of mothers' letters was also included, totalling 991 files. The criterion for including letters from mothers was whether the letter provided information pertaining to the paternal role, for example, if the mother mentioned her husband or his contact with the children.

Popular magazine data: popular magazine articles on the subjects of fatherhood, motherhood, and parenthood, published between 1900 and 1942. Children's Bureau data: letters from fathers and mothers interested in child-rearing advice, received by the United States Children's Bureau between 1915 and 1944. Angelo Patri data: letters to Angelo Patri written between 1924 and 1939 from fathers and mothers requesting child-rearing advice, as well as Patri's newspaper columns and radio show scripts.

(1) Magazine articles published in magazines such as PARENTS' MAGAZINE, GOOD HOUSEKEEPING, HARPER'S BAZAAR, DELINEATOR, LADIES' HOME JOURNAL, SATURDAY EVENING POST, and ROTARIAN. (2) Records of the Children's Bureau, Record Group 102, at the National Archives in Washington, DC. (3) The Angelo Patri collection at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC.



2018-02-15 The citation of this study may have changed due to the new version control system that has been implemented. The previous citation was:
  • LaRossa, Ralph. Parenthood in Early Twentieth-Century America Project (PETCAP), 1900-1944. ICPSR06876-v2. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2009-08-11.

2009-08-11 The data files have been converted from WordPerfect 5 files into ASCII DOS text files. In addition, the original codebook has been converted to a PDF file.

2006-03-30 File CB6876.ALL.WP5 was removed from any previous datasets and flagged as a study-level file, so that it will accompany all downloads.