Family and Social Rituals
The family--made up of a father, mother, and children living together--was increasingly idealized during the Victorian period. People developed firm ideas about how family life ought to be, although not everyone could meet these standards. At the same time, real changes in work and income allowed family relationships to develop more fully. In the working class, growing prosperity allowed more space for shared activities and enabled childhood to last longer. Among aristocrats, extended families had formerly promoted economic and political interests rather than encouraging close, affectionate ties. But with Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, and their nine children as models, the upper classes now paid more attention to family celebrations and to establishing a public image of closeness and intimacy.
The middle-class family in its private home was central to the new ideology. Middle-class houses were large enough for family activities yet too small for the separate smoking rooms, morning rooms, and children's wings of aristocratic households. Middle-class women could focus their attention on family and children; they did not need to earn money (as did wives in the working class), nor did they have the social and political obligations of aristocratic women. The model of mother at home, father at work, and family as the center of children's lives--the model taken as "natural" for much of the twentieth century--had its origin in middle- class patterns of life. During the nineteenth century, English middle-class