EVERY CHILD'S BIRTHRIGHT: In Defense of Mothering by Selma Fraiberg

EVERY CHILD'S BIRTHRIGHT: In Defense of Mothering

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The quality of nurturing during infancy strongly determines children's capacities for forming attachments in later life and, to a lesser extent, their abilities to learn. Tiffs impassioned argument challenges the increasingly popular notion of substitute care for young children as outside the ""biological program"" (breastfeeding intentionally keeps a mother nearby) and exceedingly difficult to monitor--unless one happens to hire a Mrs. Peggotty. In the animal studies of Konrad Lorenz, Fraiberg finds implications for human behavior, not in the momentary impact of imprinting but in the prolonged contact which allows aggressive impulses to be modified--adaptively transformed--in the presence of parental concern. And in post-Freudian studies of human attachment, she finds (as many others have) ample evidence to suggest that those neglected in their early years or consigned to indifferent caretakers become ""hollow men,"" emotionally impoverished adults unable to channel aggression or form loving bonds. Public policies, especially for the poor, are at cross-purposes, generally ignoring what psychology has documented, and most contemporary options are dismal: daycare centers offer anonymous or impersonal care from a harried worker in unstimulating surroundings; most other paid caretakers are either untrained or uncommitted; and newfangled arrangements--neighborhood groups, lots of sitters--are, like food additives, largely untested. Unlike Harvard's Schaffer in Mothering (p. 271), Fraiberg is adamant about Mother--not father, not doting relatives--and equally aware of the torment a women who must work endures. Those with more choices will also find this disquieting despite her apparent deep feeling. But few readers of any persuasion will appreciate the simple-minded fables at the beginning or the LOOKING GLASS case histories intended to dramatize her position. Without the exuberance of The Magic Years or the scholarly apparatus of Insights from the Blind (p. 319), this is an unswerving brief for attendant motherhood during a child's first years.

Pub Date: Oct. 21st, 1977
Publisher: Basic Books