maternal deprivation

On True Love and the Perillous Errors on Maternal Deprivation

Beyond Maternal Deprivation Towards Parental Attachment

Maternal deprivation is a term used to describe a situation in which a child does not receive an adequate amount of consistent care as an infant and is believed to be one of the causes of failure to thrive, which is characterized by failure to gain weight and to achieve developmental milestones. The term “maternal deprivation” was coined by John Bowlby, who theorized that infants form one attachment that serves as a secure base from which they explore the world and serves as a model upon which they build all their future relationships.

Contributing Factors

One of the most common factors in cases of maternal deprivation is the age of the parents. Teenagers often lack the knowledge, experience, and emotional maturity required to provide a consistent level of care for infants. Unwanted pregnancies also frequently result in the lack of emotional bonding between parent and child. The absence of one parent places additional stress on the caretaking parent. Other common contributing factors are social and economic. Poverty, low levels of education, mental illness, and the lack of an adequate social support system are all factors that increase the likelihood of maternal deprivation.

Symptoms

The symptoms of maternal deprivation include lack of appropriate hygiene and insufficient weight gain. Physical growth is delayed and sometimes stops altogether. Physical developmental delays are often accompanied by the lack of age-appropriate responses to social interactions, such as smiling and vocal sounds expressing emotions. Children diagnosed with failure to thrive are also easily fatigued and exhibit excessive sleepiness and irritability. Later in childhood, they often have learning disabilities and behavioral problems.

Criticisms

One of the most common criticisms of Bowlby’s theory was that it fails to distinguish between the effects of being separated from an attachment figure and the effects of never having formed a successful attachment. Critics also point out that Bowlby’s own research samples focused on children of a specific background, such as those being raised in institutions, and that his findings were generalized to include all children. In addition, his work was funded by a post-war government concerned with employment for returning veterans whose jobs had been performed by women during the war. Others, including feminists, point out that Bowlby’s theory did not acknowledge the role of the father in the child’s development at all.

Controversies Surrounding Maternal Deprivation Theory

Harry Harlow, whose research with monkeys was instrumental in the formulation of Bowlby’s maternal deprivation theory, was harshly criticized for the cruelty of his methodology. Such experiments are being resumed by a Wisconsin University. Dr. Ned Kalen, the chairman of the Psychiatry Department, has sparked a similar debate about whether the potential benefits to humanity justifies the suffering inflicted upon animals in the name of research.

In a video, Michael Rutter , the first professor of child psychiatry in the U.K., expresses disagreement with Bowlby’s assertion that separation from the mother is the primary cause of maternal deprivation syndrome. He, and other experts have argued that while attachments formed in infancy are extremely important to a child’s development, Bowlby’s theories placed unrealistic expectations and responsibility upon mothers. Rather than forming a single all-important attachment to the mother, infants in fact are capable of forming multiple attachments.

Current Research

Despite criticism and controversy surrounding the theory, modern experts agree upon the importance of forming successful attachments in the healthy development of children. However, in light of changing social realities in which mothers play an increasingly larger role in providing financially for their children, more research is being done on the role of fathers in attachment theory. This will perhaps one day result in a the development of a “paternal deprivation theory”. While this field of research is relatively new, there is already some scientific evidence that children who experience paternal deprivation suffer many of the same physical and developmental symptoms.

Current research suggests that just as with mothers, fathers should begin developing attachments with their children as shortly after birth as possible. In one study, it was found that fathers sometimes expressed that mothers exhibited competitive behavior in the parenting arena, which adversely affected their ability to create successful attachments with their children. This phenomenon can be considered an undesirable side effect of centuries of insistence that the mother’s parenting role is far more important than the father’s.

Gender politics has always played, and will continue to play, a role in influencing research agendas as well as in the interpretation of research findings and the social implementation of those findings. As society begins to place a greater value on the importance of the father’s role in healthy child development, research will reflect those changing societal priorities. The more caring adults children are able to form secure, loving attachments with, the more likely they are to become caring, loving adults themselves.

maternal deprivation
Sister Irene at her New York Foundling Hospital in the 1890s

August 12,2016  |

mother and child portrait

Expressing the Essence of Motherhood Through the Portrait

“When you start with a portrait and search for a pure form, a clear volume, through successive eliminations, you arrive inevitably at the egg. Likewise, starting with the egg and following the same process in reverse, one finishes with the portrait”.

–Pablo Picasso

Importance Of Mother and Child Portrait.

The importance of the relationship between mother and child has been expressed in art throughout history. In the book Mother: Portraits by 40 Great Artists Juliet Heslewood has assembled a collection of art which expresses the essence of motherhood through the mother and child portrait.

In addition to being a favorite subject of artists, the relationship between mother and child has been considered sacred by many religions. Examples of art utilizing this theme date back as far as the 13th century B.C. The artistic form of the mother and child portrait enjoyed an increase in popularity with the advent of Christianity, which gave rise to Madonna art, which depicted the sacred relationship between the virgin Mary and the Christ child. The popularity of the mother and child portrait continues to this day. Mother and child portrait art even has its own Wikimedia page.

Portraits by artists of their own mothers are common. Being a new father himself at the time, between 1921 and 1923, Pablo Picasso painted a dozen works that focused on the mother and child portrait. Other artists who have painted portraits of their mothers include Rembrandt, in 1629, Cezzane in 1897, Whistler in 1871, Andy Warhol in 1971, and Tracy Emin in 1994. Artist Mary Cassat painted mother and child portrait series that celebrated the role of women in their children’s lives.

In the past, only wealthy families could afford to commission the services of an artist. Today, it is possible to commission an artist for a family portrait for as little as $500.00. There are also websites like A Stroke of Genius, and the American Society of Portrait Artists which provide contact information for mothers who may want to commission a mother and child portrait of their own. Rather than the family of subjects having to pose for long hours as they did in the past, today’s artists are able to work from photographs.
In the Victorian era in America, shortly after the invention of photography, the mother and child portrait often didn’t include the mother. Instead, the mother’s task was to hold the child still to avoid the photo being blurred while excluding herself from the portrait. In many of these “family” portraits, the mother’s head is completely covered, and only her hands are visible.

Photographer Linda Fregni Nagler assembled a collection of over a thousand such “family” portraits into a book titled The Hidden Mother. While sociologists cannot be sure of the reason for this phenomenon, one possibility is that mothers felt they were not valuable enough to even appear in photographs, but existed entirely to be of service to their husbands and children. Happily, after 1900, mother and child portrait art included mothers.

With today’s technology, anyone with a smart phone can create a family portrait. For those with little experience with photography, there are many articles that offer tips and tricks. Rather than posing stiffly and smiling, as most people did for family portraits in the past, portraits that reflect the personalities and favorite activities are becoming more popular. Many include family pets some even include family members’ favorite musical instruments.

Modern family portrait photographer Steve Wrubel specializes in what he calls “story pictures“. He creates a series of photographs that reflect “how a family or individual lives in this exact moment”. In portraits of the past, personality could only be reflected by expression, clothing and background. Today’s portraits can involve lighting, props, and elements of fantasy as well as reality.

While customs, social mores, and forms of artistic expression may change, creating family portraits that demonstrate and celebrate the special relationship between mother and child will likely endure until the end of time.

mother and child portrait
The Artist’s Mother Seated at a Table, Rembrandt van Rijn, 1631

August 5,2016  |

history of baby care

A Timely 1934 Manifesto for Reclaiming Our Human Liberties by Childcare Reform

The History of Baby Care in the U like this.S.

In the U.S. the history of baby care is largely a history of the economically disadvantaged. By the end of the 19th century, the child care system was largely subsidized by wealthy philanthropists. It consisted of a range of provisions for minorities, immigrants and the working poor, who were often stigmatized by it’s being based on charitable donations. Because it was dependent upon voluntary donations, services were often inconsistent. The system proved to be a weak foundation upon which to build an enduring network of quality child care needed by working women.

One of the earliest examples in the history of baby care was the National Federation of Day Nurseries, established in 1898, which was the first nationwide organization devoted to the issue of quality childcare for working mothers. This was inspired by a model day nursery created by Josephine Jewell Dodge as a social exhibit at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exhibition in Chicago.

The next development in the history of baby care was the U.S. Children’s Bureau, founded in 1912 with the goal of creating public policy to support mothers who wanted to stay home with their children. It was successful in that by 1930, most states had passed laws granting some form of mothers’ pensions. However, rather than addressing the need for child care, it attempted to reduce that need instead. It was soon discovered that the pensions were inadequate to support children and that many, often as the result of racial discrimination, were deemed ineligible to receive them.

In 1933, nearly 3,000 schools that enrolled 64,000 children in 43 states were started, being consolidated into 1,900 schools with a capacity for approximately 75,000 children. As WWII approached and women began working in the defense industry, the government created a program in which one child care worker was required for every ten women defense workers. While 2 million child care workers were needed to serve 19 million defense workers under this system, there were still only the 3000 child care centers with the capacity to care for only 130,000 children.

As a result, poor working mothers were often forced to leave their children alone or utilize inferior child care. Stories of tragedies that often befell these children were used to castigate working women as selfish, especially after the war when men returning were in need of jobs. Congress passed two welfare reform bills in 1962 and 1965, linking federal support to policies that required poor and low-income women to enter training programs and work outside the home.

In the 1980s, public expenditures for low-income families were reduced and tax incentives for higher income families were almost doubled. With its history of baby care lacking in developing a strong child care infrastructure for working mothers, the United States continues to compare poorly with other advanced industrial nations. France, Sweden, and Denmark all offer free or subsidized care to children over three and also provide paid parental leave.

The History of Baby Care in Sweden

In Sweden, which ranks in the top ten in the world for child care, the history of baby care has been very different. In response to falling birthrates in Sweden, sociologist Alva Myrdal and her husband, an economist, published a book titled Crisis in the Population Question. The primary purpose of the book was to present social reforms that would encourage couples to have more children without decreasing their personal liberties, especially those of women. The authors pointed out the danger that without reform Sweden “would at the end of the 1970s have almost twice as many elderly people in relation to individuals in the working ages now”.

In addition to encouraging people to have more children, the authors also proposed substantial changes in the prevailing patriarchal family system, in which fathers worked and women remained at home to care for the children, through a process of social engineering. This book, and its Nobel-prize winning authors, had a vast influence on the present system of daycare for preschool children that was introduced in the 1970s. By 1975, approximately 100,000 children aged one through five were enrolled in the system. By 2005, that number had increased to 420,000, representing 90% of children in that age group.

One of the reasons the system in Sweden is so successful is decentralization. Taxes totaling approximately 20% of individual personal income from 290 separate municipalities fund preschools, schools, and social services. Wealthier municipalities help subsidize poorer ones through a system of tax equalization. The costs of quality child care in Sweden are comparable to those of the United States. In the U.S. the cost per child in 1992 was $12,356, while the cost per child in Sweden was $10,000.

The internet has made it possible to study the history of baby care in many countries and for cultures to learn from one another in their mutual goal of providing all children with the best care possible. Hopefully in the next century, the history of baby care in our century will be little more than a list of continuous improvements that have resulted in a world full of happy, healthy children.

history of baby care
Wartime shipyard Government-subsidized Kaiser West Coast Shipyards nursery schools, which enrolled more than 7,000 offspr

July 29,2016  |

parenting style

Struggling Integrity: Media and Middle-class Moms

The Influence of Mass Media on Parenting Style

Media and Middle Class Moms: Images and Realities of Work and Family by Lara J. Descartes and Conrad Kottak raises questions about the extent to which parents, as well as their parenting style, are affected by the media. Peer pressure is often as powerful a force in the adult world as it is in the world of children and adolescents. In a world in which mass media is sponsored by multi-billion dollar corporations millions of those dollars are spent on creating commercials which portray lives in which everyone is able to afford to buy their products.

The degree to which social behavior is influenced by those commercials is beginning to alarm many people. In areas such as fashion and home improvement, the influence that mass media exerts may be relatively harmless other than perhaps increasing family debt. Parents have long struggled with varying degrees of success with having to say no to the often daily requests from children besieged by commercials for toys and fast food. Further, studies have shown that children under eight years of age are unable to understand the difference between advertising and regular programming. That’s one reason the influence of mass media can significantly interfere with a chosen parenting style.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average teen spends seven and a half hours each day utilizing some form of mass media. Of those connected to the internet, 81 percent reported being active on social networking sites. In the past, the home was often a place where teens could escape peer pressure for a time, but the ubiquitous nature of mass media has vastly reduced opportunities for respite. If a child is being bullied at school, that bullying is now able to reach inside the home through the internet. Many parents whose parenting style would otherwise be far more relaxed have had to become hyper-vigilant about their children’s online activities.

Today, mass media such as television is only one form of media with the power to influence parenting style. Social media in the form of Facebook, Twitter, podcasts and personal blogs are becoming increasingly influential as well. One example of how social media can affect parenting style and decision making is presented in an article describing the power of social media to influence parents’ decisions to vaccinate their children against disease.

A study was conducted in an area with a vaccination rate lower than the national average that was experiencing a pertussis epidemic. 196 parents of children younger than 18 months were surveyed in the study. The survey revealed that one group of 126 of the parents followed the recommended vaccination schedule from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The other group consisted of 28 of the parents who delayed vaccines, 37 who refused some of the vaccines, and 5 parents who didn’t vaccinate at all. 95% of parents in both groups indicated that they had consulted their “people network” for insight into making vaccination decisions. The people networks of 72% of those who did not conform to the guidelines had advised them against it.

Another example comes from an article in the Independent. Research from a study of 1,500 teens in Los Angeles showed that teens who saw more pictures of friends engaged in social activities involving alcohol on social media such as Facebook were more likely to participate in drinking themselves.

The Increasing Sphere of Corporate Sponsored Media Influence

In an article in the Guardian in response to the commercialization of the Australian Melbourne Cup, the author describes the horse racing event as “an endless parade of careful, deliberate sponsor messages punctuated by several minutes of horse racing”. It also points out that the line between advertising and real public space is becoming blurred.

The power of corporations and advertising has become such that in 2012 at the London Olympics, corporate sponsors insisted upon “brand exclusion zones“. People were to be forbidden even from wearing clothing depicting the name of a competing brand within the zone. Increasingly, corporations are beginning to resemble oppressive governments in their attempts to control what we see, wear, and do. They are also achieving an alarming measure of success in doing so, partially because of their ability to influence parenting style.

Television can be a valuable educational tool and some children’s programming provides worthwhile lessons in desirable behaviors such as kindness and cooperation as well as focusing on literacy. Others can allow economically disadvantaged children to experience a vicarious trip to a museum or a zoo. However, in addition to the often negative influences of corporate sponsors, excessive television viewing can also prevent the development of other important skills, such as reading and physical activities. Just as parents have had to learn to say no to the many requests from their children to purchase items viewed on mass media, there’s an increasing likelihood that large numbers of parents may begin saying no to mass media itself.

parenting style

July 22,2016  |

parental duties

Parents: Above the Law

“There is ample empirical evidence that a lack of love can harm a child’s psychological, cognitive, social, and physical development. Given this, parents are obligated to seek to foster the development of the capacities for engaging in close and loving personal relationships in their children.”

–Michael W. Austin

Laws To Enforce Parental Duties

In loco parentis is legal Latin term meaning “in the place of a parent”. It is used in cases in which a parent or parents are unable or unwilling to adequately perform their parental duties, making it necessary for someone else to assume those rights and responsibilities. Most developed countries have laws in place that define parental duties.

In the U.K. parental duties include providing a home and protecting and maintaining the child. Other parental duties are providing discipline, education, and necessary medical treatment. In Australia, parental duties include financial support, education, and medical care. Parental rights include the right to choose the form of a child’s education and the right to discipline them.

In the U.S., in addition to legal provisions regarding the health, safety, and education of children, additional parental responsibility laws outlining the extent to which parents are held financially responsible for the actions of their children have been enacted in each of the 50 states. States have also established criminal sanctions to be imposed against parents who abuse, neglect, abandon, or fail to financially support their children. In China, in addition to having laws that specify the rights of children, a law was recently passed that requires adult children to care for their elderly parents.

In most societies, parents are also expected to model behaviors that reflect at least the minimum standard of social behavior expected by their citizens. In 1903, Colorado became the first state to establish laws that imposed legal sanctions on behavior by parents that could be considered contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Such laws have now been adopted by 42 other states.

The difficulty of controlling the behavior of parents without violating their rights to parent according to their personal beliefs has resulted in a number of Supreme Court cases in which the states have been forbidden to restrict parental authority. However, an increasing number of laws have been passed to increase parental accountability. For example, a community passed an ordinance which allowed parents to be charged with the crime of “failing to supervise a minor”. The mayor of the community reported a 44.5% decrease in juvenile crime and increased parental involvement as a result.

Most people would agree that ideally, parental duties should exceed the minimum level of care required by law, and that some parental duties are moral rather than legal. In addition to physical safety, parents also provide emotional safety in the form of unconditional love and acceptance. Many parents believe that they have a responsibility to provide their children with a religious or spiritual and moral education as well as an academic one.

The number of articles and books that have been written by child “experts” which outline parental duties are almost as numerous as the number of suggestions offered for how best to carry them out. Most parents want the best for their children, yet there is a wide range of definitions as to what constitutes the best. One parent may believe that helping their child with homework is both their parental duty and the right thing to do, while another may believe that their duty is to teach their child the value of independent study.

As human beings, parents and children alike have their own unique personalities and interests. They also have their own strengths to develop and weaknesses to overcome with the help of one another and the larger community. Philosophers have long pondered the question of what constitutes the full range of parental rights and responsibilities, both in terms of what is best for children and what is best for the future of humanity as a whole. Ironically, one of the most important parental duties, that of loving a child, cannot be legislated.

parental duties
Yia Yia and parents 1920, CC2.0

July 18,2016  |

maternal penalty

Motherhood as a Status Characteristic and the Maternal Economic Penalty

The motherhood penalty is a phrase coined by sociologists to describe the economic costs for women who become mothers. Research shows that the economic maternal penalty amounts to a 5% decrease in wages per child. Professional women who are mothers make an average of $11,000 per year less than women who do not have children. Men’s wages, in contrast either remain the same or increase when they become fathers. Despite the fact that an increasing number of women are the sole financial support of their children, society has not yet adapted to this reality, and men are still considered to be the primary family wage earners.

In addition to lower wages, women also face the maternal penalty of being viewed as less dependable despite the fact that the very survival of their children is dependent upon their dependability. Equally ironic, they are also viewed as less committed to their jobs because of their commitment to their children. Finally, although motherhood entails setting limits for children as well as disciplining them, mothers are also viewed as less authoritative than women without children. One article points to several studies that demonstrated that mothers were more likely to be discriminated against in the workplace.

Studies have also shown that women face this type of maternal penalty in a number of industrialized nations which include the U.S., the U.K., Australia, Poland and Japan. Sociologists have studied a number of strategies that could be used to address wage inequality and have determined that the best strategy is one in which women aren’t expected to choose between motherhood and a well-paying career.

Reasons for the Maternal Penalty

There are several theories that attempt to explain the reasons for these gender disparities. One of them is the theory that mothers may be less productive at work because they have more responsibilities at home. Another theory is that performance evaluations are biased in favor of high-status groups. According to this theory, motherhood is a “status characteristic”. Experiments confirm that status characteristics, which often include race, educational level, gender and physical appearance are systematically used to determine levels of competence and influence.

The maternal penalty is a form of discrimination that results from stereotyping, or cultural beliefs about the differences between men and women and their proper social roles. Women who break the stereotype are less well liked. For example, if the culture believes that good mothers stay at home with their children, and good workers place their companies first in their priorities, logic dictates that working mothers must be less than ideal both as mothers and as workers. In social experiments, evaluators rated highly successful women who were mothers as less likable and warm and more hostile.

Another theory is that mothers value time with their children more than higher wages, and therefore often accept part-time positions with low pay and more flexibility. In a survey, 50% of mothers working full-time indicated that they’re rather work part-time and 80% of mothers working part-time preferred part-time work. However, the negative impact of low wages in full-time work is not offset by flexible work hours, paid sick leave, or maternity leave.
Many don’t view the economic consequences of motherhood as an unfair penalty because motherhood is a choice. Because a woman can choose not to become a mother, they view mothers as responsible for their own poverty. In one experiment, participants exposed to dialogue about choice before answering questions regarding working mothers tended to discriminate against working mothers more strongly in matters of hiring and salary.

Strategies for Ending the Maternal Penalty

One recommended strategy is the development and implementation of parental leave policies, rather than maternity leave policies. Many feel that offering only maternity leave encourages the continued belief that raising children is primarily women’s responsibility. Breast-feeding is only one of many parental responsibilities and many working mothers utilize breast pumps to provide their babies with its benefits.

Family leave policies can benefit companies in a number of ways. One of those ways is saving money on training new employees. New parents returning to work after time spent bonding with their infants do so with much less emotional conflict, which results in higher productivity as well as increased job satisfaction. While sociologists focus on economic penalties, for women, the consequences of child-bearing are not just economic, but social, mental and physical as well.

As long as a person’s value being determined by their worth as human capital rather than their meaningful contribution to humanity continues, the devaluation of child care is apt to continue as well. Ironically, there is no group of people better situated to change societal stereotypes and end the maternal penalty than mothers themselves. As every working mother expected to excel in multiple arenas can attest, women are adept at multi-tasking. When united in advocating for a better quality of life for their children, they have proven to be unstoppable.

maternal penalty
Woman working in a Factory 1940s by Howard R. Hollem – US Library of Congress’s, under the digital ID fsac.1a34951

July 15,2016  |

loving female hormones

Sacred Insanity: The Love Drugs

“That’s what falling in love really amounted to, your brain on drugs. Adrenaline and dopamine, oxytocin and serotonin. Chemical insanity, celebrated by poets.”

Tess Gerritsen

The Role of Loving Female Hormones in Sexuality

There are a number of substances produced by women’s bodies that might be called loving female hormones. Two of the most important are oxytocin and dopamine. Oxytocin was “discovered” in 1952, and dopamine in 1957. Both play a complex and important role in human relationships between men and women as well as between parents and children.

Oxytocin is both a medicine and a hormone which has been nicknamed “the love hormone”. Secreted from the pituitary gland to the many parts of the brain that contain receptors, one of the primary ways oxytocin acts as a loving female hormone is by reducing social anxiety and evoking feelings of calmness in the presence of a romantic partner. However, it is not only a loving female hormone, but a male one as well.

Another important aspect of human relationships is trust. In experiments designed to measure trust levels, researchers found that subject who were administered doses of oxytocin experienced higher levels of trust than those who were not. Even friendships require a degree of trust, but romantic relationships that may one day result in someone you find attractive seeing you in your underwear one day requires an even higher level.

One study that measured oxytocin serum levels of women before and after sexual stimulation found increased levels present immediately after orgasm. A similar study conducted with men found increased levels of oxytocin throughout the entire process of sexual arousal, rather than just after orgasm. This means that the presence of increased levels of oxytocin is an important component of human sexual arousal, both male and female.

During childbirth, oxytocin causes contractions, while dopamine reduces the pain that accompanies them. Dopamine also plays an important role in preventing or alleviating post-partum depression.

The Role of Loving Female Hormones in Parenting

One article shares the results of an experiment in which the natural production of oxytocin, one of the loving female hormones, was blocked in mother rats, which caused them to ignore their young. Additionally, young female mice who were not mothers themselves were indifferent to the cries of infant pups. However, when they were injected with oxytocin, they began to retrieve the crying infants. These studies revealed the presence of oxytocin receptors in the auditory cortex of the brain. The left side of the auditory cortex contains more receptors, which suggests that this is the part of the brain that specializes in recognizing social signals.

The largest and most important source of dopamine in the brain is the basal ganglia located at the base of the forebrain. This is the part of the brain responsible for controlling impulses and making decisions. One of the reasons that dopamine can be considered a loving female hormone is that high levels of dopamine has the effect of reducing inhibitions. While some impulse control is necessary, as any parent can testify, if the decision to have a child was based entirely on logic and preparedness, the world would contain very few people. During childbirth, oxytocin causes contractions, while dopamine reduces the pain of contractions. Dopamine also plays an important role in preventing or alleviating post-partum depression.

Production of Loving Female Hormones

New studies have shown that the body’s natural production of dopamine can be adversely affected by high levels of copper in the brain. Low levels of dopamine is believed to be one of the causes of post-partum depression. Luckily, there are things women can do to stimulate production of the loving female hormones that enable them to care for themselves as well as others. One article lists a number of natural ways to do just that.

The loving female hormones oxytocin and dopamine play a huge part in attraction, romance, and sexual arousal as well as reducing the pain of childbirth and helping new mothers successfully adapt to their roles as infant caretakers. Mothers would do well to remember that males produce these hormones as well, and with the exception of childbirth, for similar reasons. Perhaps one day, researchers will conduct a research experiment that reveals that men who are administered a dose of oxytocin respond to crying infants, too.

loving female hormones
Jean-Honoré Fragonard, The Stolen Kiss, cc2.0

July 13,2016  |

family Life with Iroquois

Hommage to the Equality Principles of the Iroquois Nation

Family Life With Iroquois Nation

It’s quite possible that family life in the Iroquois Nation may have had a lasting influence on the quality of women’s lives all over the world. Iroquois society reflected the basic tenet that life has no real quality without equality. In their society, women enjoyed far more freedom and many more human rights than the women of early American society.

American suffragettes Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Matilda Joslyn Gage, and Lucretia Mott socialized with Iroquois women who were citizens of a six-nation confederacy. For a month, Lucretia Mott observed indigenous women share in discussion and decision-making as their nation organized its governmental structure. Shortly afterwards, she and Stanton held the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls. After Matilda Joslyn Gage was arrested in 1893 for attempting to vote in a school board election, she was adopted by the Mohawks, one of the six tribes of the Iroquois confederacy.

While serving as president of the National Woman’s Suffrage Association in 1875, she wrote a series of articles about the Iroquois for a popular magazine. In her articles, she stated that the “division of power between the sexes in its Indian republic was nearly equal” and that the Iroquois family structure “demonstrated woman’s superiority in power.” By contrast, women in early American society had no rights at all.

Ethnographer Alice Fletcher quoted an indigenous woman as saying “As an Indian woman I was free. I owned by home, my person, the work of my own hands, and my children should never forget me. I was better as an Indian woman than under white law.” Many indigenous women resisted becoming American citizens for that reason, since family life in the Iroquois Nation afforded motherhood far more respect.

In an article, Sally Roesch Wagner, author and founder of one of the first women’s studies programs, offers a conversation in which an indigenous woman named Alice described women’s role in government. Clan mothers were responsible for nominating men for chiefs. Only men who had never committed a theft, a murder or a rape could qualify for nomination. Marital rape was virtually non-existent. In his 1881 book, Legends, Traditions and Laws of the Iroquois, Tuscarora chief Elia Johnson, wrote that European men respected women “until they became civilized”.

In 1981, in response to the assertion that there was no evidence that societies in which women shared equal political power with men existed, Paula Gunn Allen, a Laguna Pueblo/Sioux author and scholar, wrote “Before we decide, when we search the memories and lore of tribal peoples, we might be able to see what eons and all kinds of institutions have conspired to hide from our eyes…”. Even today, family life in the Iroquois Nation continues the tradition of women and mothers bearing the responsibility of nominating and counseling the male chief who represents their clan in the grand council.
The role of women in family life in the Iroquois Nation was extremely diverse. In addition to household duties such as preparing food, they also participated in politics, and even gambled. A matrilineal society, property was passed down through the mother to her daughter, and after marriage, the man resided with his wife’s family. Men and women shared power equally.
Molly Brant, an Iroquois woman, is a good example of the extent of political influence that women enjoyed as a result of the gender equality of family life in the Iroquois Nation. After falling in love and having children with Sir William Johnson, a loyalist in the Revolutionary war, she became nearly as influential in English colonial society as she was in her own.

She played such a large role in mediating between the Iroquois and the colonials that one British commander remarked that that her influence was “far superior to that of all their Chiefs put together”. The British government built her a house, and the Canadian government gave her 120 acres of land in appreciation for her service. However, she is a controversial figure within the Iroquois Nation.

It is said that to forget history is to repeat it, but in the case of family life in the Iroquois Nation, in which women enjoyed equal rights, history may well be worth repeating. As women in modern societies continue to struggle for social, political and economic equality, the historic example of gender equality set by the Iroquois Nation proves that it has been achieved, and can be again.

family Life with Iroquois

July 8,2016  |

sexuality and family lfe

About the Mothering Heart and Sexual Invisibility

“You can be a businesswoman, a mother, an artist, and a feminist — whatever you want to be — and still be a sexual being. It’s not mutually exclusive.”

–Beyonce
An article about motherhood and sexuality in literature and film questions whether sexuality and family life are compatible in Western societies. The author’s analyzation of literature and films would suggest that they aren’t. She asks, and attempts to answer the question: “How far can we go, as a filmmaker and a novelist, in representing the mother as a sexual being?”. The answer seems to be changing, albeit very slowly.

Sexuality and Family Life in Film

Mothers in literature and film are often portrayed as either “good” or “bad”, and it is frequently something connected to their sexuality that makes them “bad”. From the first days of film, women in the role of ideal mothers have been portrayed as sexually pure, forgiving and self-sacrificing. In the 1913 film The Mothering Heart, the heroine deviated from that ideal by leaving her cheating husband. Her baby dies shortly thereafter, and believing it to be a divine punishment for her non-forgiveness of her husband’s sexual transgressions, she returns to him
In the 1930’s films portrayed mothers who had no desires of their own, but were often weak enough to be seduced by men with desires. In the 1950’s, the film Mildred Pierce contained a message about the consequences of women who prioritized their children’s happiness over that of their husbands. Her husband divorces her, leaving her to support herself and her demanding children, although she is ill-equipped to do so. Her daughter resents their new poverty and decline in social status. This left the mother vulnerable to being seduced by a scoundrel who promised economic assistance, but then seduced her daughter. Overall, films have presented very few positive portrayals of sexuality and motherhood.

Sexuality and Family Life in Popular Magazines

The societal view that good mothers repress their sexuality is also reflected in magazines geared towards mothers. One study examined articles in eight of those magazines from 1991 through 2010 for content related to sexuality. The study found that out of 14,746 articles in eight popular magazines over 20 years, only 2.3%. contained any content regarding sexuality and family life. Despite the popularity of the controversial 1991 cover of Vanity Fair, the content of magazines geared towards mothers would indicate that mothers simply cease to be sexual beings after the birth of their first child.

Only one parenting guide in the 1990s, Vicki Iovine’s The Girlfriend’s Guide to Surviving the First Year of Motherhood contained a chapter on sexuality and family life. Psychologist, couples counselor and author Ester Perel’s book Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence addresses some of the issues surrounding sexuality and motherhood that popular magazines geared towards mothers don’t. Ms. Perel points out in her book that sexual invisibility is deeply ingrained in Western culture. There are also at least a few online articles on the subject of sexuality and family life.

Sexuality and Family Life in Education

This example of a current U.S. public school course in human sexuality and family life demonstrates that the educational objective is to teach abstinence from sexuality by emphasizing the consequences of unplanned pregnancy. A report on public school sex education in Australia states that “The pleasure of sexual behaviour/activity was taught by less than 50% of respondents.” According to an article in the Guardian, the unwillingness of adults to speak openly and honestly about sexuality has resulted in leaving children more vulnerable to the influence of sexualized advertising and pornography on the internet.

The Role of Religion in Sexuality and Family Life

Many of the negative attitudes towards sexuality have their origins in religion. Most religions teach that sex outside marriage is wrong. Even people who are not religious believe that sex within the context of a caring relationship is both healthier and more enjoyable than casual sex. An interesting experiment revealed that the brain performs differently when thinking about sex than when thinking about love. Subjects were divided into three groups. One group was “primed” with the mention of sex, while another was primed with the mention of love. The third acted as the control group.

The results of the experiment were that those who had been primed with mentions of sex performed better on analytical tasks, and those primed with mentions of love performed better on creativity tasks. Conversely, thoughts about sex may be detrimental to creativity, while thoughts about love may be detrimental to analytic reasoning. Religious beliefs rely on long-term love, utilizing words like “eternal”. One reason that religion may discourage sex, and even masturbation, is because it increases analytic ability, which may undermine religious belief.
The role of sexuality in family life cannot be ignored. Reducing discussions about sexuality to clinical explanations of the biological purpose of body parts or lists of negative social consequences may be doing children a disservice. The pleasure of sexuality, which include both the physical sensations and the emotional closeness it engenders, is one of the reasons family life exists at all.

sexuality and family lfe
Pregnant Woman was created by Ron Mueck who is an Australian hyperrealist sculptor, and was purchased by Queensland Art G

June 29,2016  |

parental surrogate

Surrogacy: Humanity’s Capacity for the Ultimate Gift

“The Vatican is against surrogate mothers. Good thing they didn’t have that rule when Jesus was born.”

–Elayne Boosler

Forms of Surrogacy

Couples who are unable to have a child due to any number of medical conditions are increasingly utilizing the services of surrogates. Surrogacy involves one woman carrying the biological child of a couple to term. The two common processes of surrogacy are the traditional and the gestational.

In the traditional process, the surrogate is inseminated with donated sperm, and the surrogate mother is also the biological mother. In the gestational process, the biological parents donate the egg and the sperm. The egg is fertilized in the laboratory and then, implanted into the uterus of the surrogate in a process called a blastocyst transfer. The success rate of this method has increased by 10% in recent years.

To become a surrogate usually requires that a number of health tests be administered to determine eligibility, including a hysteroscopy to determine the size, shape and health of the uterus. Other tests include an infectious disease test, a pap smear. Another important test is a psychological one, which determines belief and the level of commitment to the process, as well as addressing the likelihood of some level of emotional bonding with the child during pregnancy and potential sense of loss upon completion of the process. Sometimes, mock trial pregnancies are conducted with the use of estrogen.

Legal Issues About Parental Surrogate

Experts estimate that approximately a thousand children each year are born in the U.S. as a result of the use of a parental surrogate. Other countries in which the use of a parental surrogate is legal include Russia and the Ukraine. In many European countries, including France, Italy, Germany and Spain, the use of a parental surrogate to conceive a child is still illegal.

Although soliciting a parental surrogate is illegal in the U.K., a non-profit organization called Surrogacy UK supports couples seeking surrogates through process of introduction of people interested in participating in the process. The number of people who, after being introduced, are able to forge a personal relationship between themselves with the level of trust required for the lengthy process of surrogacy is not a matter of public record. However, the laws may soon be changing. Despite surrogacy being illegal, as of 2014, the number of babies registered in Britain showed a 255% increase over the previous six years.

In India, where the use of a parental surrogate is legal, it is estimated that up to 40,000 children are born to surrogates each year. One of the reasons for that high figure is that in India, the cost is approximately $60,000, less than half of the average cost of $150,000 in the U.S. Thailand is also a favored destination for couples seeking a parental surrogate. A surrogate mother there receives the modest sum of only $13,000 dollars for her services, the majority of the fee going to brokers and doctors.

Ethical Concerns Surrounding Surrogacy

Despite the increase in the number of couples utilizing a parental surrogate, the industry remains largely unregulated. The lack of regulation leaves a number of ethical questions without legal answer and can also result in unforeseen events having life-long consequences.

One ethical issue is the potential exploitation of women living in poverty, but there are others, both from religious and ethical perspectives. One example of is that of an Australian couple who hired a surrogate in Thailand. She became pregnant with twins, one of whom was diagnosed with Down’s syndrome in utero. The couple advised the surrogate to abort the child, but the surrogate refused. The couple accepted the other twin, but left the infant with Down’s syndrome to be raised by the surrogate.

Another ethical considerations is whether or not the surrogate mother has a right to remain informed regarding the health and welfare of the child. Many parents who utilize the services of a surrogate do maintain a life-long relationship with the surrogate. However, unlike legal open adoptions, which are more regulated, they are not legally required to do so. Just as with adopted children, parents of children born to a surrogate using the traditional method must also consider the ethical question of whether their child has a right to know about their biological origins. Many believe that knowledge of one’s true origins is vital not only for health reasons, but for developing a healthy personal identity.

Despite the potential for ethics violations, the use of surrogacy has brought untold joy to live lives of thousands of hopeful would-be parents. Many surrogate mothers have reported that participating in bringing joy into the lives of others in this has increased the joy in their own lives as well.

parental surrogate
Pregnancy by Tatiana VDB, CC2.0

June 27,2016  |