Ships Without A Shore: America’s Undernurtured Children


Childhood in America has changed, and not for the better. From day care for babies, to the exhausting array of activities for children, to the storm of lurid and violent shows now deemed appropriate for the young, to the expectation that teenagers build resumes, childhood has been thoroughly redefined. Anne R. Pierce argues that this radical re-definition has been embraced with remarkably little discussion about what children, by nature, need.

Pierce submits that we have latched onto opinions about childrearing that are potentially harmful to children. If traditions are choices to be embraced or abandoned at our discretion, and adult self-fulfillment is a primary determinant in those choices, the fundamentals of the well-wrought childhood are easily forgotten. Steeped in intellectual permissiveness, we have convinced ourselves that parental substitutes are as good as parents themselves at caring for children, that the concepts of nurture and of the maternal are archaic and irrelevant, that more lessons and sports are better than less and that the earlier one embarks upon them the better, and that innocence and knowledge are less important than worldly attitudes and competitive skills.

Understanding and challenging the theories and agendas behind childrearing trends is a pressing need, and the subject of this book. Pierce takes an honest look at the evidence on the effects of daycare and of hyper-structuring children. She gives voice to the many intelligent and estimable educators, child-development experts, researchers, and social commentators who are ignored because their conclusions are hard to bear. Equally important, Pierce says, is attention to that inner tug of love and conscience, which many of us have been programmed to ignore.Modern American children are expected to adjust and to understand as adults would the complexities and vicissitudes of public as opposed to private life. For them, childhood is fast becoming a distant memory. Could it be that America’s thrust forward leaves children without a solid foundation upon which to grow? This is the sobering question asked, and answered, in this challenging book.

Peruse an excerpt from Chapter 2, “Love and Stability: The Fundamentals of Early Childhood, Which Day Care Cannot Provide”

Editorial Reviews

In her latest book, Ships Without A Shore: America’s Undernurtured Children, Anne R. Pierce takes a hard look at the emerging data on the effects of day care and the hyper-structuring of children’s lives with endless activities. She laments the toll taken by the modern American pace of life and the modern American entertainment industry on childhood innocence and wonder. She analyzes our shifting moral-philosophical priorities and exposes the fractured condition of our families. Pierce submits that today’s childrearing trends may just spell the death of childhood—the crucial stage in human development. Here’s what others have to say:


“Pierce is passionate about her concerns for the well-being of American children and youth. Her arguments . . . are well-grounded in theoretical and empirical work. . . . [What] she has to say is convincing.”

—William A. Corsaro, Contemporary Sociology


“She appeals to parents who have surreptitiously surrendered the privilege of nurturing their young to day care centers and media screens, under the politically correct banner of liberation–and her appeal is compelling. Arguing that the results of this myopic social experiment have been disastrous, she sends an urgent warning that children are in jeopardy when they are deprived of their developmental need for a secure, meaningful attachment to a loving parent. This book is in effect as SOS to a sinking culture–one that has set its most vulnerable citizens adrift without social, emotional, or spiritual moorings. Highly recommended. All levels, all readers.”

—S. Durr, Choice


“Gutsy and provocative, Anne Pierce presents an articulate, no-holds-barred indictment of current child-rearing practices. Read this book, and you will have plenty to talk–and to think–about!”

—Jane M. Healy, Educational psychologist and author of Endangered Minds


“Thoughtful parents will find Anne Pierce’s Ships Without a Shore a provocative, even disturbing book. She challenges the ethos of self-fulfillment, personal achievement, and moral relativism propagated by conventional wisdom and popular culture, and draws a bleak picture of its effects on child rearing. Drawing on her own experience as a parent and observation of other parents and children as well as on neurological, psychological, and other social scientific research, taking a long historical perspective and appealing to the insights of an earlier philosophical and religious tradition, Anne Pierce talks unfashionably and compellingly about children’s natural needs for stable parental love and care and to be taught right and wrong and have their innocence protected from corruption.”

—Nathan Tarcov, University of Chicago


Ships without a Shore provides a vivid and stinging critique of the state of affairs of our young – from babies to adolescents. Anne R. Pierce provides a compelling discussion of the key issues that contribute to child development and health as well as more subtle aspects of life such as optimism and positive expectations, from parenting to peer and media influences in our rapidly changing world. Exhibiting exceptional scholarly review, she presents arguments from a range of fields touching child development using summary and quotation surrounded by her own analyses. In this way, she raises concerns about the way in which modern forces are filling our children’s lives with information and busy activities that have empty materialistic goals and do not engender introspection, enjoyment of simple pleasures. This book raises the alarm that current conditions are creating children without a moral compass… especially during developmental phases which set the capacity for these feelings to ever develop. She argues convincingly that without appropriate time to reflect on the wonders of being alive during the right developmental stages, we may be raising an antisocial and non-creative generation of children who will grow to become adults unable to reach their imaginative, altruistic and emotionally balanced potential because of this neglect and materialistic environment. This is an extremely important book on the importance and challenges of child development at our current technological crossroads at which media is able to deliver incredible “programming” to our youth to massive and potentially disastrous effect.”

—James E. Swain MD, PhD, FRCPC, Child Study Center at Yale University


“An insightful critique of the restlessness of American life and its detrimental effects on children, Pierce’s Ships Without A Shore reads like a twenty-first century supplement to Tocqueville’s nineteenth century Democracy in America. For like Tocqueville, Pierce examines the moral and intellectual culture of the American regime that shapes the beliefs of its members and thereby the way they raise their children.

“Deeply learned, well researched, and emotionally perceptive, Pierce’s analysis thus qualifies not only as a timely commentary on contemporary child-rearing but also as an enduring work of political philosophy about the American regime–a book for both parents and scholars.

“Pierce asks us to stop and think about the new frenetic way of life we impose on children and on ourselves, a way of life that manifests the American spirit but rushes child development.”

—Judith A. Swanson, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, Boston University


“This book is brilliant… and should be required reading for all parents… I read it cover to cover with pencil in hand. I couldn’t stop myself from underlining passages and making notes in the margins… It will leave you wanting to talk about the ideas with someone… Let’s really get a dialogue going about this very important topic. Our children and the future of our country depend on it.”

—ChristineMM, The Thinking Mother


“Who’s minding America’s children? Arguing that children have been abandoned by a generation of self-indulgent parents, Pierce sounds the alarm for children in crisis. She explains how the definition of childhood has been radically undermined as baby boomers have embraced a lifestyle of materialism and moral relativism. She appeals to parents who have surrendered the privilege of nurturing their young to day care centers and media screens — and her appeal is compelling. Highly recommended.”

Choice Magazine


Paperback: 276 pages

Publisher: Transaction Publishers (Aug. 7, 2009)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1412810906

ISBN-13: 978-1412810906

Ships Without A Shore: America’s Undernurtured Children

Additional Resources

American Counseling Association
The American Counseling Association is a not-for-profit, professional and educational organization that is dedicated to the growth and enhancement of the counseling profession. Founded in 1952, ACA is the world’s largest association exclusively representing professional counselors in various practice settings.

Attachment Parenting International (API)
The mission of Attachment Parenting International (API) is to promote parenting practices that create strong, healthy emotional bonds between children and their parents. We believe these practices nurture and fulfill a child’s need for trust, empathy, and affection, providing a lifelong foundation for healthy, enduring relationships.

Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood
Campaign For A Commercial-Free Childhood is a national coalition of health care professionals, educators, advocacy groups and concerned parents who counter the harmful effects of marketing to children through action, advocacy, education, research, and collaboration.

Case Western Reserve Childhood Studies
Studies of the life cycle have earned CWRU national and international recognition. Cutting edge research and teaching on both children and the elderly is widely evident on campus. Studies of childhood and child development are important in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Child Development Institute
Information on child development, parenting, family life, teenagers, learning, health & safety, child psychology and mental health including ADHD.

Child Development Media
Child Development Media, Inc. (CDM) is currently the world’s largest single source of commercially available videos, books, and curricula on child development and related topics, with over 1500 titles in its catalog.

Daycares Don’t Care
This website contains an extensive index of publications about day care from well-known child development authorities, psychologists, psychiatrists, pediatricians, public policy analysts, sociologists, day care providers, and others.

Dictionary For Dads
A new parenting website which is “defining the world of parenting one situation at a time! Get Educated, Stay Informed and Get Involved with Dictionary For Dads.

Duke Center for Child and Family Policy
The center is working to solve problems facing children in contemporary society by bringing together scholars from many disciplines with policy makers and practitioners to improve the lives of children and families.

Family Education Network
The Family Education Network’s mission is to be an online consumer network of the world’s best learning and information resources, personalized to help parents, teachers, and students of all ages take control of their learning and make it part of their everyday lives.

Mothers and More
Mothers & More is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of mothers through support, education and advocacy.

National Council on Family Relations
The National Council on Family Relations (NCFR), founded in 1938, provides an educational forum for family researchers, educators, and practitioners to share in the development and dissemination of knowledge about families and family relationships, establishes professional standards, and works to promote family well-being.

National Institute for Early Education Research
The National Institute for Early Education Research supports early childhood education initiatives by providing objective, nonpartisan information based on research. The goal of NIEER is to produce and communicate the knowledge base required to ensure that every American child can receive a good education at ages three and four.

National Institute on Media and the Family
Since 1996, the National Institute on Media and the Family has worked tirelessly to help parents and communities “watch what our kids watch.” The National Institute on Media and the Family is the world’s leading and most respected research-based organization on the positive and harmful effects of media on children and youth.

Parents As Teachers
The mission of Parents As Teachers is to provide the information, support and encouragement parents need to help their children develop optimally during the crucial early years of life. Program goals include: increasing parent knowledge of early childhood development and improve parenting practices, providing early detection of developmental delays and health issues, preventing child abuse and neglect, and increasing children’s school readiness and school success.

Parents Television Council
The Parents Television Council was founded in 1995 to ensure that children are not constantly assaulted by sex, violence and profanity on television and in other media. The PTC produces critical research and publications documenting the dramatic increase in sex, violence and profanity in entertainment.

Rutgers Camden Center for Children and Childhood Studies
The Center for Children and Childhood Studies promotes understanding, enrichment and the recognition of the significance of the experiences of childhood.

The Bronfenbrenner Life Course Center
The Bronfenbrenner Life Course Center’s (BLCC) historical emphasis on understanding human development throughout the life course has expanded to include broader family and demographic topics. The center has a multidisciplinary focus, involving scholars from many departments and colleges throughout Cornell University.

The Family Research Council
The Family Research Council (FRC) champions marriage and family as the foundation of civilization, the seedbed of virtue, and the wellspring of society. FRC shapes public debate and formulates public policy that values human life and upholds the institutions of marriage and the family.

The Future of Children
The Future of Children seeks to promote effective policies and programs for children by providing policymakers, service providers, and the media with timely, objective information based on the best available research.

The Witherspoon Institute Popular Bookmark
The Witherspoon Institute works to enhance public understanding of the political, moral, and philosophical principles of free and democratic societies. It also promotes the application of these principles to contemporary problems.

The Women’s Freedom Network
The Women’s Freedom Network was founded in early 1993 by a group of women who were seeking alternatives to extremist ideological feminism and the anti-feminist traditionalism. It believes in the full participation of women in every area of American life.

The Zigler Center
The Zigler Center’s over-arching mission is to improve the well-being of children and families by bringing objective child development research into the policy and public arenas.