All SHCY members receive the Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth. Published three times a year, it features scholarly research and critical book reviews.

Recent Updates

Jan  26

SHCY Outreach Grant: Child’s Play: Multi-Sensory Histories of Children and Childhood in Japan and Beyond

The SHCY is proud to be a co-sponsor of the interdisciplinary workshop CHILD’S PLAY: MULTI-SENSORY HISTORIES OF CHILDREN AND CHILDHOOD IN JAPAN AND BEYOND, to be held at the University of California, Santa Barbara, February 27-28, 2015. The workshop is partly funded by a SHCY Outreach Grant.
Workshop website: http://www.eastasian.ucsb.edu/projects/childs-play/.​

Jan  19

CHC Episode 5: Producing Self-Regulating Subjects

CHILDHOOD: History and Critique (CHC) is a series of interviews, commentary, and happenings in historical studies of childhood presented by Dr. Patrick J. Ryan, Kings University College at Western University, Canada.

Audio of Patrick Ryan’s Conversation with Gregory Bowden

Conversation Transcript
Transcript coming soon!

Commentary by Patrick J. Ryan

The U.S. Department of Health – Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported in 2010 that boys (12%) were more than twice as likely as girls (5%) to have been diagnosed with ADHD; and kids living in households without a mother or a father (15%) were twice as likely to suffer from the disorder than those living with both parents (7.5%). The CDC‘s 2007 National Survey of Children’s Health reported very significant regional differences too. In the old American south ADHD was assigned to one child (4-17 years) in seven to ten, while from California to Texas it was used for perhaps one in fifteen or twenty children.

This is big business. During the 1990s sales of Ritalin increased more than 7 fold in the U.S., and more than 5 fold in Canada. By 2002 the top ten pharmaceutical companies in the U.S. posted a profit of 36 billion USD and held an average profitability margin of 18.5% of sales (the Fortune 500 average is 3.3%).1 According the CDC, by 2012 about 1 in 5 high-school-aged American boys had been diagnosed with ADHD, and among them about 2 out of 3 were prescribed medications such as Ritalin and Adderall. TheNew York Times reported that total annual sales of drugs to treat ADHD had more than doubled (from 4 to 9 billion USD) between 2007 to 2012.

How might we grasp the startling history of ADHD? What does it tell us about childhood?

Thomas Szasz (1920-2012) addressed the question in 2008 when he told the watchdog organization he helped found, Citizens Commission on Human Rights, that ADHD should no more be confused with a medical condition than “spring fever” should be confused with typhoid fever. Common phrases such as – “he has a chemical imbalance in the brain” – are part of an ideology that serves the interests of the psychiatric profession by extending the domain of the somatic into the social. In Szasz’s view, such falsehoods are general to psychiatric thought and the stakes could not be higher: “I have long maintained that the child psychiatrist is one of the most dangerous enemies not only of children, but of adults, of all of us who care to the most precious and most vulnerable things in life. And these things are children and liberty.”2

A mirror image of Szasz’s claims against psychiatry appears in the parent-centered magazine ADDitude. In “Silencing the Skeptics,” Debra Carpenter says the medical authorities are in consensus that ADHD is “real.” Repeatedly, ADDitude tells its readers not to blame themselves or others: “If your ADD son could exert the control necessary to conform, he would.” Free yourself from guilt by helping your child with brain training games and by optimizing the meds. Rather than Szasz’s picture of the isolated mother duped by the concealed interests of the psychiatric profession, the assumed reader of Additude is a competent agent, an active parent who attacks the disorder and all its possible outcomes. ADHD is not something one can outgrow and its boundaries spill into every part of ordinary life. It presents challenges in matters of money, career, and love. But there is hope. A drop-down menu provides a way to “join the community” with “ADDconnect.”

mother hugging daughter next to message "Don't Punish Me or My Child! ADHD symptoms are real, not the result of bad parenting."

A common theme found in the magazine “ADDitude.”

At least two positions are necessary conditions for the polar responses to ADHD. (1) Anti-psychiatry rejects the somantic basis of ADHD, while organizations like ADDitude support it. The debate requires a sharp distinction between ‘real’ phenomena and cultural constructions. Sometimes this is translated into the distinction between a material world external to the mind and a representational one that is produced by the mind. (2) Anti-psychiatry presents ADHD as a fraudulent diagnosis which robs children of childhood and all of us of meaningful freedom. Those who embrace the diagnosis see its treatment as necessary to allow people to master themselves, to establish the self-control necessary to live well at liberty. Both parties place childhood in a particularly important place within the development of competent agents.

I discussed these issues in a recent conversation with MacEwan University’s Gregory Bowden, who has published two excellent articles on ADHD in the past year.3 Bowden explained that similar diagnoses are nearly a half-century old, and that psychiatric attempts to categorize a lack of impulse control were present in the late-19th-century.4 The current debate often ignores this history, just as it assumes (incorrectly in Bowden’s view) that “real” science is apolitical and asocial. Bowden emphasized that the debate over ADHD has reinforced discursive practices that treat childhood as a site for intervention. He urges us to see the expansion pharmacological treatments for children on a continuum of disciplinary practices that include checklists, systems of reward-punishment, and other forms of behaviour modification.

Taking this perspective, Bowden see ADHD as project to “produce responsible subjects” through childhood. In his articles, he argued persuasively that the diagnosis and treatment of the disorder exists on the edge of a paradox. One is freed from ADHD by becoming bound to the terms of responsibility. Yet, the very idea of responsibility rests upon the assumption that conduct is determined by the will. What is a child diagnosed with ADHD, if not a person whose conduct is beyond the will? This does not mean that ADHD makes no sense (nor is it an attack upon disciplinary technologies more broadly). Instead, recognizing this tension might help us understand what the ADHD debate produces on the landscape of modern childhood.


1Susan McBride, “Pharmaceutical Industry Practices and the Medicalization of Childhood: Is Pathology for Sale?” Windsor Review of Legal & Social Issues no. 23 (2007): 55-83.

2 As quoted in the clip posted by the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQegsqYhuZE). Szasz’s reading of psychiatry was established in many publications over decades. See The Myth of Mental Illness: foundations of a theory of personal conduct (New York: Hoeber-Harper, 1961); Ideology and Insanity: essays on the psychiatric dehumanization of Man (Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1970); The Therapeutic State: psychiatry in the mirror of current events (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1984).

3 Gregory Bowden, “Disorders of inattention and hyperactivity: The production of responsible subjects,” History of the Human Sciences vol. 27 (2014) 88–107; “The Merit of Sociological Accounts of Disorder: The Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder case,” Health vol. 18 (Jul 2014): 422-438.

4 Rick Mayes and Adam Rafalovich, “Suffer the restless children: The Evolution of ADHD and paediatric stimulate use, 1900-1980,” History of Psychiatry vol. 18, no. 4 (Dec 2007): 435-457.

Gregory Bowden

About Gregory Bowden

Gregory Bowden is an instructor in sociology at MacEwan University, Edmonton. His research interests include the sociology of health and illness, with an emphasis on medicalization, sociological theory, and textual analysis. He completed his thesis, “Reading Disorders of Inattention and Hyperactivity: A Normalizing Project,” at the University of Alberta in 2012.

Jan  14

CFP: Girls’ Economies: Work & Play Cultures

Call for Papers: Girls’ Economies: Work & Play Cultures

Edited by Miriam Forman-Brunell and Diana Anselmo-Sequeira
Foreword by Dr. Eileen Boris

We know more about the history of grownups’ labor than we do about girls’ work, especially in informal domains. We know more about adult women workers than about girlhood employment and work-themed amusements. We know more about girls’ consumption practices than about their production patterns. We know more about childhood and play than we do about how play informs girls’ work skills, sensibilities, and identities as workers. We know more about businessmen and women than about moneymaking girls.

Girls’ Economies: Work & Play Cultures brings into sharp focus the significance of girls’ distinctive labor practices that often overlap with leisured endeavors. By crossing the boundaries between work and play, the margins between girlhood and female adolescence, and the demarcations among various economies, the original essays in this collection traverse the scholarly borders separating the history of labor, play, and business history, women’s history and the history of childhood and adolescence.

This anthology sets out to provide historical, international, and interdisciplinary perspectives on the socio-cultural and economic nature of work in girls’ lived realities and in representations. To that end, we seek previously unpublished essays that examine girls’ often invisible economies (e.g., informal, formal, domestic, household, underground (black economy), plantation, sexual, and sharing economies, etc.) by investigating the distinctive nature of girls’ work patterns that often complicate the lines between manual, domestic, unremunerated play practices, and monetary rewards (e.g., handicrafts; household toys); manifest unique “work cultures” (e.g., DIY participatory cultures) and; employ specific forms of labor, such as the “emotional labor” of Girl Scouts and the “reproductive labor” of girls’ household chores that help to sustain households and enables other family members to engage in paid, productive labor.
[Continue reading…]

Jan  05

CHC Episode 4: Developmental Thinking

CHILDHOOD: History and Critique (CHC) is a series of interviews, commentary, and happenings in historical studies of childhood presented by Dr. Patrick J. Ryan, Kings University College at Western University, Canada.

Conversation Transcript
Transcript coming soon!

Commentary by Patrick J. Ryan

This episode of CHC offers an extended two-part conversation with André Turmel, professor emeritus at Laval University in Quebec City and author of the 2008 book A Historical Sociology of Childhood.

Turmel begins by summarizing how he came to the historical sociology of childhood. He gained his commitment to history while studying at the University of Provence Aix Marseille I, where Annalistes historians such as Georges Duby and Paul Veyne were linked to the sociologists who trained him. He saw childhood has an area that needed sociological attention, noting that for most of the twentieth-century sociologists focused upon the family, leaving childhood to the psychologists. Citing the examples of Talcot Parsons and Pierre Bourdieu, Turmel claims that until quite recently, leading sociologists have uncritically imported developmental psychology into sociological theory.

In response, Turmel developed an historical sociology of childhood by drawing upon some of the ideas of Bruno Latour, and building on the insights of the physician and historical philosopher Georges Canguilhem’s post-WWII work on the normal and the pathological.

His research utilizes precise analytic concepts, but these are fashioned through detailed archival efforts. Most of our conversation focused upon Turmel’s key concepts for investigating modern childhood: “graphic visualization,” “the normal child,” and “developmental thinking as a cognitive form.”

Select Works by André Turmel:

A Historical Sociology of Childhood. Developmental Thinking, Categorization and Graphic Visualization (Cambridge University Press, 2008).

“Das normale Kind: Zwischen Kategorisierung, Statistik und Entwicklung,” in Ganz normale Kinder: Heterogenität und Standardisierung kindlicher Entwicklung edited by Helga Helle and Anja Tervooren (Juventa, 2008): 17-40.

“La catégorie d’orphelin en milieu institutionnel. Quelques paramètres pour la région de Québec (1850-1950),” in Québec-Wallonie. Dynamiques des espaces et expériences francophones edited by Brigitte Caulier and Luc Courtois (Laval University Press, 2006): 113-134.

“De la fatalité de penser la maturation au terme de développement. Esquisse d’une alternative,” in Questions pour une sociologie de l’enfance edited by Régine Sirota (University of Rennes Press, 2006): 63-73.

“Towards a Historical Sociology of Developmental Thinking: the Case of Generation,” Paedagogica Historica vol. 40, issue 4 (August 2004): 419-433

“Historiography of Children in Canada,” in Histories of Canadian Children and Youth edited by Nancy Janovicek and Joy Parr (Oxford University Press, 2003): 10-18.

André Turmel

About André Turmel

André Turmel is Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Laval University in Quebec City. He has published on education and child labour, the history of developmental psychology, and it currently examining the concept of “orphan children” in the history of Quebec.

Dec  17

CHC Episode 3: Ireland: Reading Childhood Comparatively

CHILDHOOD: History and Critique (CHC) is a series of interviews, commentary, and happenings in historical studies of childhood presented by Dr. Patrick J. Ryan, Kings University College at Western University, Canada.

Audio of Patrick Ryan’s Conversation with Mary Hatfield

Conversation Transcript
Transcript coming soon!

Commentary by Patrick J. Ryan
With the Irish Research Council and St. Patrick’s College, Drumcondra, the Society for the History of Children and Youth provided support for a conference on the history of childhood in Ireland in June, 2014. The conference drew over fifty papers covering an impressive diversity of issues, and offered four thought-provoking plenary lectures. Listen above to a conversation about it and the development of the field of childhood history in Ireland with one of the organizers, Mary Hatfield – Ph.D. Candidate at Trinity College, Dublin.

Organizers of "Twenty Years A-Growing" from left to right: Sarah-Anne Buckley, Mary Hatfield, Marnie Hay, Riona Nic Congail, and Gaye Ashford (another member - Jutta Kruse - not shown).

Organizers of “Twenty Years A-Growing” from left to right: Sarah-Anne Buckley, Mary Hatfield, Marnie Hay, Riona Nic Congail, and Gaye Ashford (another member – Jutta Kruse – not shown).

To prepare for the conference, I surveyed 40 peer-reviewed articles and chapters on Irish childhood history published over the previous decade and delivered a review of the literature. This reading and the conference experience left me with a few comparative observations. It also affirmed for me the value of reading childhood history comparatively across national boundaries.

About ten years ago there was a sustained increase in publications on Irish childhood history. The trend seems to be increasing every year. These efforts are interdisciplinary and predominantly focused on modern Ireland – that is familiar in other national contexts. Two narratives organize current Irish literature: (1) studies that tell a story of structural and institutional deprivation and mistreatment of Irish children since the mid-19th-century; (2) studies that explore the relationships between childhood, youth, and the politics of nationalism in late-19th- and 20th-century Ireland.1 I suspect continuing efforts will extend beyond these dominant concerns with deprivation and nationalism, yet (given my limited examination) there is room for more work on youth consumer culture & sports, educational institutions (outside of residential schools), the history of scientific ideas about childhood (outside of paediatrics).

This said, the current emphases in Irish historiography prepare fertile ground for considering important comparative issues. My attention was drawn to a familiar tension between modern ideals of childhood and the existence of workhouses (or poorhouses) in the mid/late 19th-century. Influenced by ideas about childhood conditioning and innocence, like other elites, many Irish leaders feared workhouses would “pauperize” children through association with the worst kind of adults. At the same time, Irish authorities held the prejudice that ordinary Irish homes were unfit to raise children by middle-class standards. Neither the family as it was, nor institutions as they had been previously built, were adequate. This dilemma (common in other nations) created the framework for a vast overhaul of childhood policy in the late-19th- and 20th-century.2

While the Irish shared key elements of a larger childhood-saving concern, their discourse developed unique features. There was a much stronger fear that practices such as foster care or “friendly visiting” (later professional casework) would be used to proselytize across confessional boundaries. Since, the Church exercised more influence over governmental policy and held a unique position within identity politics, the balance tipped decidedly toward building large Church-run institutions for children.3 As it is still said in Ireland, the poor or troublesome child was “sent to the laundries” – residential schools typically run by nuns. The rise of juvenile courts, legal adoption, foster care, the rationalization of “outdoor” relief, the professionalization of social work, and a multitude of structures that advanced middle-class childhood discourse over the past 150 years in North America and Great Britain did not have the same presence or timing in Irish childhood history.

You might say that the relationship between the child and the modern state captured by the Anglo-American doctrine of “the best interests of the child,” has been particularly contentious, and perhaps incongruous with primary features of Irish culture.4 This seems consistent with Caroline Skehill’s 2004 historical study of social work in Ireland, but the sources and consequences of this divergence are not obvious to me.5 If Ireland was different, was it due to an ability to maintain elements of master-servant childhood? What is the Pauline exhortation? Husband-wife, parent-child, master-servant are “one-flesh.”6 It is more than tantalizing to contrast this ancient doctrine with Ellen Key’s 1909 claim that “the century of the child” could only begin when humanity “abandoned the Christian point of view” and embraced the “holiness of generation.”7

Before going too far down this road, we might recall one of Ian Miller’s excellent points in his 2013 study of 19th-century Irish industrial schools and reformatories. Miller urged us to resist condemnation of the past or the propensity to see Irish childhood history only for what it lacked.8 If the Irish industrial schools and reformatories (founded upon confessional division and a jaundice view of family life) inflicted harm, it would not follow that other national histories offer rational policy alternatives, harmless “best-practices.” Taking this a step further, one might reconsider the narrative of trauma and survival fashioned to such popularity by the hyperbolic Frank McCourt. If taken as an axiom, the idea that nothing is so miserably heroic as Irish Catholic childhood forecloses other ways of reading the history of Irish childhood.9

When considering the lessons of childhood practices in Ireland, historians would do well to reflect on the prefiguring potential of the narrative of childhood trauma and survival. It has certainly framed the histories of childhood policy in other, purportedly more “modernized,” countries: Bernardo’s global farming out of “Home Children” from England to Australia and Canada; Charles Loring Brace’s orphan trains from U.S. eastern cities to the western states.10 Canada constructed a large residential school project to assimilate First Nation children in institutions run by the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches, paid for by the Federal Government. The Canadian assault upon indigenous culture, its humiliation and violence has been called “cultural genocide” recently. These projects, apologized for today, were once proudly advanced as means to human progress.11

A comparative perspective might call into question the idea that if only Irish childhood practices had caught-up sooner, all would have been better (or at least less miserable). So many practices advanced earlier and more thoroughly outside of Ireland have come under critical review and debate. These include the professional investigation of the poor, compulsory standardized education, the removal of children and youth from paid work, not to mention the massive pharmacological network framing the treatment of North American children and youth today.12

It seems to me that the medicalization of childhood policy, what André Turmel called “developmental thinking as a cognitive form,” was later and less comprehensively instituted in Ireland.13 Taking a comparative view, it is difficult to read this as simply a blessing or a curse, but it is clearly a significant point for analysis. The difference might have been related to what Robbie Gilligan reasonably names Ireland’s history as a “reluctant state.”14 Yet – here again – a comparative view complicates the matter. If we call Ireland a “reluctant state” (defining it by what it lacked), are we saying that modern childhood policy gains its unifying features by the triumph of a medical model? Do modern child-state relations have this sort of global essence? Or, might there be multiple reluctances among us? Might it be that states are apt to do many different things? If they have purposes at all, might these be temporary, contingent, protean, and divergent?

These questions are asked without denying that historians possess reasonably compelling ways to position the child-state relationship in particular places and times. It compresses too much, but we might say that in America, a reluctant state developed from late-18th-century Republican motherhood and the idea that insecurity and competition are necessary for developing manhood. These threads became aligned against church-state monopolies, but in the 20th-century they formed around certain bio-political techniques.15 The “reluctant” state in Ireland seems to have emerged from the growing monopoly of Church institutions in the 19th-century with a complex connection with Irish nationalist identity and developed different (perhaps less subtle and less effective) disciplinary regimes. Juxtaposing two quite divergent “reluctant” states should disrupt the notion that the child-state relation moves toward the realization of an essential form; the idea of progress (or decline) may serve reformers better than historians.

Taken to its logical conclusion, this genealogical reading of the past may move categories, cast doubts upon assumptions, and put us in a position of perpetual critique.16 Maybe it leaves us with nothing better than history and comparison, and calls us to read about childhood outside of our most familiar frameworks of time and place. To do so remains a laborious and risky thing. We are usually historians of a time, a place, a culture, before we are historians of childhood. Boundaries are not easily discarded, even if we sense that childhood is a discourse passing and shifting between eras – traversing state structures, and that it might be illuminated best upon a wide historical landscape.


 

1 This essay will focus on the first of these two lines of inquiry. In the literature on nationalism and identity, many articles documented the institutional histories of youth voluntary associations. A fine example is Marnie Hay, “The Foundation and Development of Na Fianna Éireann, 1909-16,” Irish Historical Studies v. 36, n. 141 (May 2008): 53-71. Others take a cultural studies approach, such as Ríona Nic Congáil, “Young Ireland and The Nation: Nationalist Children’s Culture in the Late Nineteenth Century,” Éire-Ireland v. 46 (Fall/Winter 2011): 37-62.

2 For a concise overview of part of this period with a useful bibliography see, Lindsey Earner-Byrne, “Reinforcing the family: The role of gender, morality and sexuality in Irish welfare policy, 1922-1944,” The History of the Family v. 13 (2008): 360-369.

3 Virginia Crossman, “Cribbed, Contained, and Confined?: The Care of Children under the Irish Poor Law, 1850-1920,” Éire-Ireland v. 44 (Spring/Summer 2009): 37-61.

4 This is a complex issue. See Moira J. Maguire and Séamas Ó Cinnéide, “‘A Good Beating Never Hurt Anyone': The Punishment and Abuse of Children in Twentieth Century Ireland,” Journal of Social History v. 38, no. 3 (2005): 335-352; Sarah-Anne Buckley, “Child neglect, poverty and class: the NSPCC in Ireland, 1889-1939 – a case study,” Saothar: Journal of the Irish Labour History Society (2008): 57-69; Maria Luddy, “The early years of the NSPCC in Ireland,” Eire-Ireland v. 44 (Spring/Summer 2009): 62-90; Mary E. Daly, “The primary and natural educator? The role of parents in the education of their children in independent Ireland,” Éire-Ireland v. 44 (Spring/Summer 2009): 194-217.

5 Caroline Skehill, History of the Present Child Protection and Welfare Social Work in Ireland (Lampeter: Edwin Mellen Press, 2004).

6 See Patrick Joseph Ryan, Master-Servant Childhood: a history of the idea of childhood in medieval English culture (New York: Palgrave, 2013).

7 Ellen Key, The Century of the Child (New York: Putnam, 1909): 3.

8 Ian Miller, “Constructing Moral Hospitals: Childhood Health in Irish Reformatories and Industrial Schools, c. 1851-1890,” in Growing Pains: Childhood Illness in Irish History, 1750-1950 (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 2013): 108.

9 The narrative of trauma and survival is highlighted on the first page and the jacket cover of Angela’s Ashes. Given in the authorial voice of the adult just prior to taking the child’s point of view, McCourt tells us that when he looks back on his “…childhood I wonder how I survived at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood.” Frank McCourt, Angela’s Ashes: a memoir (New York: Scribner, 1996).

10 Roy A. Parker, Uprooted: the shipment of poor children to Canada, 1867-1917 (Bristol: Policy Press, 2008); Alan Gill, Orphans of the Empire: the shocking story of child migration to Australia (Alexandra: Vintage Australia, 1997); Philip Bean and Joy Melville, Lost Children of the Empire: the untold story of Britain’s child migrants (London: Unwin Hyman, 1989).

11 On the Canadian aboriginal residential schools see Celia Haig-Brown, Resistance and Renewal: surviving the Indian residential school (Vancouver: Tillacum, 1988). See also this 1955 CBC news release.

12 Ansgar Allen, Benign Violence: Education in and beyond the Age of Reason (Houndmills, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014); Michael Bourdillon et al eds., The Rights and Wrongs of Children’s Work (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2010); Louise Armstrong, And They Call It Help: the Psychiatric Policing of America’s Children (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Pub. Co., 1993).

13 This is a general observation of my own, rather than a point of a particular study. The “medicalization of childhood” refers to an approach toward the lives of young people including policies, diagnostic tools and language, treatments systems, and more. For example, see Tom Feeney, “Church, State and Family: The Advent of Child Guidance in Independent Ireland,” Social History of Medicine v. 25, no. 4 (2012): 848-863.

14 Robbie Gilligan, “The ‘Public Child’ and the Reluctant State?” Eire-Ireland v. 44 (Spring/Summer 2009): 265-290.

15 The classic treatment of the establishment of bio-political techniques in the British and American situation is found in Nikolas Rose, Governing the Soul: the shaping of the private self (London: Routledge, 1989).

16 See Michel Foucault, “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History,” in Language, Counter-Memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews edited by D.F. Bouchard (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1977): 139-164; and Michel Foucault, “What is Enlightenment?” in The Foucault Reader edited by Paul Rabinow (New York: Pantheon, 1984): 32-50.

Mary Hatfield

About Mary Hatfield

Mary Hatfield is a Ph.D. Candidate at Trinity College, Dublin. She studies childhood and gender in Ireland during the nineteenth century.

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