Childhood Experiences in Mormon Polygamous Families at the Turn of the Century
The primary purpose of this research was to gain insight into what childhood was like in turn-of-the-century Mormon polygamous families. This purpose was executed through two main avenues: basic empirical data and descriptive accounts. This type of research was crucial inasmuch as previous research and commentaries dealt with adult relations but little was known about children in this complex Mormon family structure.
In order to gain an understanding of childhood in Mormon polygamous families during this era, forty elderly individuals who were reared in plural marriages were interviewed in depth. A field type design was employed using a historical-cultural; in short, retrospective history taking. Questions focused on the general family life style, respondent-sibling interaction, respondent-parent interaction, and respondent-father's other families interaction. Children in Mormon polygamous families encountered the events of Western rural America, as would any children at the turn- of-the-century, including hard physical work, large families, home based entertainment, and traditional values. Looking back in time, respondents in this study saw their families as supportive, nurturant, and for the most part as "normal " within the cultural context of Mormon community. Stress, however, was manifest primarily in the avenues of degree of contact with their father' s other families, the complexity of multiple households, and the self-imposed questions that generally existed in the society during a time of persecution as well as internal change of the Mormon church.