Jean Liedloff obituary Her book on parenting was influenced by childcare in the jungle Jean Liedloff visited South America five times. Many credit her with being the mother of attachment parenting. Liedloff was born in New York and grew up in Manhattan. As a child, she was attracted to Tarzan and jungles. Tarzan represented a pure being. She modelled for a while, and wrote.
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Start your review of The Continuum Concept: In Search of Happiness Lost Write a review Shelves: non-fiction , parenting I had high expectations for this book, as it is an oft-mentioned title in Attachment Parenting circles and has its own following as a parenting style in and of itself.
Continuum Concept parenting and Attachment Parenting are not the same thing, but there is some overlap. Though the book does contain many intriguing ideas, I found myself overall quite disappointed. Based on her observations, she concludes that their way of life is more in harmony with the natural way that humans are meant to live, in accordance with the evolution of our species, than the lifestyle of modern Western society.
She claims that the natural state of the Yequana is happiness, a primary example being that they do not have a word for "work" and they enjoy everything they do. The cause? She devotes a significant portion of the book to describing the subjective experience that she imagines an infant in each respective culture goes through, and the remainder of the book critiquing specific aspects of modern child-rearing and explaining how specific personality characteristics and modern problems are specifically the result of being deprived of the "in arms" stage.
The fatal flaw of this book is that the ideas presented are purely the theories and opinions of the author. The author has absolutely no qualifications other than her personal experience with this particular group of people: she is not an anthropologist, sociologist, psychologist, scientist, researcher, doctor, or any other relevant qualification. Throughout the entire book there was only one citation. In fact she is overtly anti-intellectual, stating that our overuse of intellect in the modern world has, to our detriment, taken over our natural instincts as humans.
There were certainly several parts of her book that my "motherly instinct" just flat out rejected. Some of the claims of the author have since been shown to be true by research, however others contradict the findings of research. Her own cultural bias is apparent in her assumption that homosexuality is a pathology and the assumption of the existence of "God".
However the opinions of the author in this book are presented as if they are objective fact. It would have been more accurate if every sentence in the book was preceded with "I think," "I believe," or "My theory is. In short, they stem from her imagination.
Maybe there is truth to them, but maybe not; there is no way of knowing. I wonder if Yequana mothers, let alone infants of either culture, would agree with these descriptions. Anthropologists have shown us that there is actually quite significant diversity among indigenous cultures, and Liedloff herself comments how different the neighboring indigenous cultures were from the Yequana.
All cultures are unique, and adapted to their particular circumstances. She clearly idealizes all the features of the Yequana culture and assumes that modern culture would be better off by adopting them, but this is not necessarily the case.
Maybe if I lived in an indigenous village surrounded by familiar places and trusted community members I could allow a toddler to wander as they pleased, but in a dangerous urban environment like NEW YORK CITY, I would definitely be keeping a protective watch on my child.
A specific critique I have of the parenting style that the author advocates is her critique of modern Western parents being too "child-centered. In addition to some "out of arms" time being important to physical development such as learning to crawl and sit, which start gradually from a very young age , I think that direct interaction and attention are a quite natural way of welcoming a child into the family and community, and communicating to them their inherent worth as a person.
The way Liedloff describes it, she seems to advocate just completely ignoring young babies as one goes about their daily life. Babies have constant needs and are completely dependent on their caregivers to fulfill them- eating, sleeping, comforting, and toileting, are all things babies cannot do themselves, let alone laundry, bathing, and other tasks that are inherent to baby care. It is one of the central tenants of Attachment Parenting and its importance has been demonstrated in psychological research.
Indeed, the importance of this has been demonstrated by studies done on touch, attachment, co-sleeping, and so forth. However, I think she isolates this particular issue excessively, rather than acknowledging it as one ingredient in an overall approach to parenting. Other important factors include growing up in an environment of unconditional love, acceptance, and belonging, caretakers who respond in a consistent and caring way, positive examples and relationships with family and community, breastfeeding, and a positive birth experience, to name a few.
Just carrying your baby all the time is not enough; all aspects of parenting have an impact on babies and the adults that they grow into. I thought her interpretation of personality quirks to be very interesting, for example a person being very messy because they are seeking the fulfilment of deprived infantile needs though someone taking care of them and loving them unconditionally despite their flaws.
My subjective opinion note my qualification! Another idea I liked about the book was the concept that children, like all humans, are social animals and they do what they think is expected of them. They instinctively want to fit in and please their parents. I do think that expectations are powerful and the language we use is important.
But again, this is one factor in a complex system of influences, and needs to be considered in context. It appears even the things I like about the book have serious qualifications. So if there is so much to criticize about this book, why does it have such a strong following?
What made it so popular? I think the reason is that it makes the reader question the status quo of the way we treat babies in our society in a powerful way.
Just the idea of putting oneself in the "shoes" of a baby and imagining what they might go through is important. Asking the question of how humans evolved and how this impacts the needs of babies is important. Questioning our cultural practices and considering more traditional practices, like slings instead of strollers, or co-sleeping instead of cribs, is important. So in summary I think this is a great book to open minds and get people thinking, but because it is so grotesquely subjective and unscientific, it should not be looked to in itself as a source of information or a guide to parenting practices.
Fortunately there are many other books available now which cover these topics and make use of more objective research methods through fields like anthropology, psychology, evolutionary biology, and neurobiology.
The experience demolished her Western preconceptions of how we should live and led her to a radically different view of what human nature really is. She offers a new understanding of how we have lost much of our natural well-being and shows us practical ways to regain it for our children and for ourselves. There are remarkable insights here. Though not written as a child-rearing manual, The Continuum Concept has earned a reputation as an excellent resource for parents and parents-to-be who intuitively feel that the parenting "techniques" of the modern era are inherently misguided.
Jean Liedloff obituary