What price a child? Commodification and Australian adoption practice 1850–1950

Journal article


Swain, Shurlee. (2018) What price a child? Commodification and Australian adoption practice 1850–1950. The History of the Family. 23(1), pp. 1 - 19. https://doi.org/10.1080/1081602X.2016.1186558
AuthorsSwain, Shurlee
Abstract

The issue of premiums has always proved problematic for advocates of benevolent adoption for whom the involvement of money tainted an exchange that was meant to be grounded in love. This paper argues that the shifting relationship between supply and demand has meant that there has always been a market in children and that adoption was one of the more prominent mechanisms used to regulate that exchange. Drawing on a database of 25000 advertisements placed in Australian newspapers during the so-called century of the child, it analyses the ways in which children were rendered desirable in a competitive market. Analysing the more than 3000 advertisements in which it was made clear that money, known at the time as a premium, was to change hands, it casts new light on the commodification process involved in adoption, identifying a mismatch between the preferences of those seeking and those needing to dispose of children. It identifies a market that was highly responsive to the environment in which it was operating and proved remarkably resilient in the face of the increasing regulation of adoption. By viewing adoption through the lens of the market, it questions the notion that the ‘best interests of the child’ have always necessarily prevailed.

Keywordshistory of adoption; adoption advertisements; commodification of children; baby farming; adoption premiums
Year2018
JournalThe History of the Family
Journal citation23 (1), pp. 1 - 19
PublisherRoutledge
ISSN1081-602X
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1080/1081602X.2016.1186558
Scopus EID2-s2.0-84975302333
Page range1 - 19
Research GroupSchool of Arts
Place of publicationUnited Kingdom
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https://acuresearchbank.acu.edu.au/item/85447/what-price-a-child-commodification-and-australian-adoption-practice-1850-1950

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