1st Edition

The Digital Child The Evolution of Inwardness in the Histories of Childhood

By Daniel Dervin Copyright 2018

    Nothing is more synonymous with the twenty-first century than the image of a child on his or her smart phone, tablet, video game console, television, and/or laptop. But with all this external stimulation, has childhood development been helped or hindered?

    Daniel Dervin is concerned that today's childhood has become unmoored from its Rousseauist-Wordsworthian anchors in nature. He considers childrens development to be inextricably linked with inwardness, a psychological concept referring to the awareness of ones self as derived from the world and the internalization of such reflections. Inwardness is the enabling space that allows ones thoughts, experiences, and emotions to be processed. It is an important adaptive marker of human evolution.

    In The Digital Child, Dervin traces the evolution of how we have perceived childhood in the West, and thus what we have meant by inwardness, from pre-history to today. He identifies six transformational stages: tribal, pedagogical, religious, humanist, rational, and citizen leading up to a new stage, the digital child. This stage has emerged from current unprecedented and pervasive technological culture. Dervin delves deeply into each stage that precedes today's, studying myths, literary texts, the visual arts, cultural histories, media reports, and the traditions of parenting, pediatrics, and pedagogy. Weaving together approaches from biology, culture, and psychology, Dervin revisits who we once were as a species in order to enable us to grasp who we are becoming, and where we might be heading, for better or worse.

    Prologue: Where Have All the Children Gone? Introduction: Writing Childhood and the Seven Stages of the Child 1.Childhood and Its Perennial Discontents: Digital Child Introduced 2. How Parenting and Group-Fantasies May Impinge on Inwardness 3. The Prehistory of Parenting and the Dawn of Inwardness:Tribal Child 4: A New Inwardness in the Classical World:Pedagogical Child 5: Suffer the Children: Ownership of the Faith Child 6. Saving the Faith Child: Ecclesiastical Interventions 7. Childhood Inside Art's Looking Glass 8. The Humanist Child Peers out from Renaissance Madonnas 9. The Rational Child and the Democratizing of Inwardness 10. Themes and Variations: Childrearing in Central and Eastern Europe 11. Conflicted Inwardness from Blood-Milk Equations 12. Inwardness Coexisting in the Citizen Child and the Digital Child Appendix: Saving Boys in/from the Church: A Personal Odyssey Selected Bibliography


    Daniel Dervin is Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Mary Washington. He is the author of several books and continues to publish in applied psychoanalysis and psychohistory.

    'Dan Dervin is a superb writer, poet, and historian. For years he has stood out as a compelling interpreter of the inner lives and motivations of groups and individuals. He proves once again that he stands apart as one of today's most solid and interesting scholars.'David R. Beisel, Professor Emeritus, State University of New York

    'Daniel Dervin takes the pulse of psycho-spiritual reality in our world today, together with a profound sense of past and future. You will not want to miss so many details of real lives and their challenges. At the same time, the creative spirit in the work itself gives a bracing sense that the quest for wisdom is still alive.'  —Michael Eigen, Author, Contact with the Depths, Under the Totem, and Faith 

    "As a parent of two children who are growing up in this digital age, I share some of the concerns that Dervin expresses. Chief among those concerns is if the reliance upon technology by our youth is turning them away from being “children” and ultimately producing adults who are incapable of interacting in social situations... Dervin’s talents and research delve deep into psychological analysis and studies that he cites throughout the book"— Drew Gallagher, THE FREE LANCE–STAR