chapter  Chapter 10
64 Pages

Attitudes Towards Young Children and Sexual Behaviour

WithJean-Louis Flandrin

The high infant mortality rate encouraged men to father many children in order to perpetuate the strength of their families, in a society where family and blood ties were more important than today. Attention must be given to the ecclesiastic authorities' attitudes towards the abandoned children. Certain passages describing a mother or father's love for their young children in France in the Middle Ages could lead us to doubt that infanticide could have still been common. Societies exist — in Africa for example — where children are always welcome. By forbidding all sexual activity for any but a procreative purpose, the Christian idea of chastity encouraged the faithful who were incapable of remaining continent to marry, and it encouraged married couples to reproduce as long as one or the other still felt the stirrings of physical desire. That is certainly one of the fundamental elements of sexual behaviour in ancient Christian society.