Journal of Professional Nursing

History of the child health and development book Part 1: 1920 to 1945

Jill Clendon, RN, PhD, MPhil (Hons), BA, Nursing Policy Advisor/Researcher, New Zealand Nurses Organisation, Nelson, NZ, Adjunct Professor, Victoria University, Wellington, NZ
Karen McBride-Henry, RN, PhD, Associate Research Fellow, Victoria University, Wellington, NZ

Reference:  Clendon, J. & McBride-Henry, K. (2014). History of the child health and development bood Part 1: 1920 to1945. Nursing Praxis in New Zealand, 30(1), 29-41. 


The New Zealand child health and development record book (also known as the Well Child/Tamariki Ora Health Book or Plunket book) has recorded the history of infant-rearing practices in New Zealand for almost 100 years.  Since its initial publication it has been used by mothers and health professionals to track the health and development of children under the age of five years.  The book also provides insight on the development of mothering practices and provides commentary on the medicalisation of mothering and the emergence of mothering as a science from the time of its inception.  This article, part one of two, explores the history of the Plunket book and during the years of 1920 and 1945.  Information for the article stems from both primary and secondary sources, including an extensive collection of Plunket books from across New Zealand.  The findings chronicle the development of a medicalised relationship between mothers and health professionals.  The exploration reveals that the rise of scientific mothering coincided with the devaluing of women-centred mothering knowledge, and as a result the language that described women's mothering experiences was silenced.

Maternal and child health, history of nursing, New Zealand, Plunket, child health and development record book

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