A brief history of sleepovers

Historians in the News

In every iteration of the interminable discussion of the new book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” someone inevitably brings up the crucial issue of the sleepover — the childhood ritual in which the author, Amy Chua, wouldn’t let her daughters take part.

The sleepover, along with its cousin the slumber party, has apparently become an essential part of childhood, for boys as well as for girls.

“My impression is that sleepovers are a phenomenon of the suburbs and they started taking off in the ’50s and ’60s,” said Paula Fass, a professor of history at the University of California, Berkeley, and the editor of the Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood. In their big new suburban homes, she suggested, children for the first time had their own bedrooms, suitable for entertaining....

“By the 1980s, you had to sleep over; otherwise your parents were oppressing you,” Professor Fass said. “It was already, by the 1980s, not a privilege but a right.”...

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