Childhood & Fosterage
Cú Chulainn as a Child

In Early Medieval Ireland, class rank and ones’ Díre, or honor price, set the precedent for what was to be striven for. Marriage became complex as many saw it as a business opportunity to better their livelihood. In an attempt to give their children the best opportunity to be the most successful in life, strategies such as fosterage developed. For the poorer classes, it was seen as an opportunity to better oneself in a certain skill set that would make them more valuable on a farm and prepare them for the tasks that daily life would entail. While both sexes were fostered out, a girl’s fees would have been more expensive because she often required more attention as she learned a more difficult skill set. In the noble classes especially, the best suitable fosterage contract was sought out and seen as an essential aspect of parental roles. For those of the upper classes, sending ones’ children to live with another family would establish vital relationships with royalty and other political figures. In a way, it served as a method of social networking for the privileged. Fees were often incurred in order to successfully establish a foster relationship for ones’ child. Children who were not successfully fostered out were at a disadvantage, as their peers were developing key relationships and acquiring beneficial skills that would help to make them successful.[1]

Early Childhood

Post-Fosterage For help pronouncing some of the words present on this site, follow this link:

For a paper on Icelandic fosterage and Irish fosterage by Matthew Suarez click here:

For a paper on games and entertainment in medieval Irish society, with a specific focus on fosterage, click here:
Medieval Irish Games.pdf

Irish Research Paper Final.docxThis paper focuses on the sociological and psychological theories behind medieval Irish games and sports. The main themes that emerge are the presence of rules within the games that enhance children's understanding of the values their society esteems, as well as the rules that serve to maintain the class structure system that is so important to Irish society. By looking at fosterage lessons, hurling, equestrian events, and fidchell through the lens of Ernest Weber's and Terror Management theorists' works, these psychological themes become apparent.(by Emily Cook)
  1. ^ Anonymous (c.700)” Children and Child Rearing.” The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing. Cork: Cork University Press. 2002

    Image: Duncan, John. 19th Century. Displayed with Permission at