INFANTICIDE by Maria W. Piers


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A polished monograph on a raw, ugly subject, which looks at the long history of infanticide, finds its modern manifestations in abusive parents, and insists on its relationship to poverty, emotional deprivation, and male-dominated society. Piers examines several historical phenomena--Italian Renaissance wet nurses, 18th-century hôpitaux, 19th-century English industrial practices--and at the laws which supported them, commenting on discrepant attitudes and demonstrating that protection of children is a relatively ""new wrinkle."" Often the perpetrators were emotionally underdeveloped mothers or mother-substitutes who had suffered themselves. . . much as today's battering parents were abused as children. She further contends that the 20th-century increase in violence, especially among minors, follows not from violence on TV or permissive schools (both catchword scapegoats) but from ""a milieu of hopelessness"" and systematic neglect which denies children a caring environment and fails to provide emotional support and equal access to the women who nurture them. ""If children are to survive and become responsible, fully developed adults, then the relationship between the sexes must become equal. In this century, for the first time in world history, this appears possible."" Dr. Piers, familiar with the consequences of modern brutality for children (she wrote Wages of Neglect, 1969, with Robert Coles), also establishes her acquaintance with the past, and her earnestness and pertinent observations, like Fraiberg's In Defense of Mothering, will not go unnoticed.

Pub Date: March 27th, 1978
Publisher: Norton