Inventing Motherhood

Ann Dally wrote

The concept of motherhood as requiring primarily the sole unremitting care of children, by their mother is not an eternal ideal, but a recent social invention.

As proof of her argument, she points out that even the word didn’t appear in the Oxford English Dictionary until 1597. In her 1983 book “Inventing Motherhood, The Consequences of an Ideal” she ties that invention to the advent of industrial capitalism in the 19th century. For most mothers, this new role served to increase their social isolation and degree of power over their children while decreasing their own social power.

While she acknowledged the importance of bonding in child development and of the relationship between mother and child, she also believed that other factors were equally important. The child’s needs for stimulation, a variety of experiences, and opportunities for play are also important aspects of healthy development.

This book -written in 1982- can be frustrating when the author is moralistic. The book is, however, an interesting and worthwhile and provides a wealth of information and an important perspective for anyone interested in families.

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