social change for boys

How Positive Social Change for Boys Benefits Everyone

“Believing there was a unique boyish essence that must be catered to, educators offered same-sex practical education with male role models. They did little to address the issues of poverty and discrimination these young men encountered. And they failed horribly when it came to getting young males to question some of the tenets of masculinity that contributed to the very problems that reformers were trying to eradicate.”

–Julia Grant

Julia Grant has been a professor at James Madison College since receiving her Ph.D from Boston University, where she served as director of the Women’s Studies Program. She has also received a number of prestigious grants, fellowships and awards, including a Spencer Fellowship, a Lily Teaching Fellowship, and the Teacher-Scholar Award.

Her work in women’s studies resulted in a great deal of historical research of childhood gender roles and how society has historically defined masculinity. This research led to many of her published works, including her 2001 book “When Science Encounters the Child: Perspectives on Education, Child Welfare, and Parenting“. Her latest work, published by Johns Hopkins University Press, “The Boy Problem: Educating Boys in Urban America, 1870-1970” provides a detailed historical overview of social change for boys during that time period.

The Role of Economics in Social Change for Boys

The research of the book demonstrates a clear link between economic class and both the quality and type of education boys received. In many ways, social change for boys has not kept pace with that of the expansion in social roles of women. For example, the societal definition of masculinity has included the ability to perform manual labor. That definition resulted in the establishment of “educational” programs that focused more on the development of those skills than academic skills. This was especially true for poor children, both boys and girls alike, of poor immigrants. Due to language barriers and poverty that required both parents to labor long hours, many of these children were left largely unsupervised.

Lack of parental supervision often resulted in delinquent behavior, which was addressed through the development of “special” education classes and “reformatories” which were part of the juvenile justice system. Delinquent behavior was defined differently for boys and girls, with the definition for girls having a sexual component. In this regard, girls with a sexual history were considered impossible to reform, and devalued. One of the goals for social change for boys was training which would channel their energies towards productive labor. It was not uncommon for juvenile facilities to utilize the labor of both boys and girls, while maintaining traditional gender roles by assigning outdoor labor to boys and domestic labor to girls.

Progress in Social Change for Boys

Today, social change for boys includes a much less rigid definition of masculinity. While there are still differences in social expectations for boys and girls, gender lines have begun to blur, especially within Western culture. For example, both boys and girls are now often permitted, and even encouraged, to play with both dolls and toy trucks. The range of choices in toys has been accompanied by parental encouragement for all children to both express their emotions and develop their physical strength.

However, despite a greater degree of social equality in education, there are still some important biological differences between boys and girls. An article in the Washington Post points to evidence from the best-selling book, “The Teenage Brain”, written by Frances Jensen, which suggests that boys and girls reach their peak of cognitive development at different ages. For girls, it is between 12 and 13 years old, while for boys it is 15 to 16.

That means that it’s possible that girls may be more ready for complex subjects sooner than boys. For example, rather than placing children in classes according to age and grade, an increase in learning potential would result by introducing more difficult material in accordance with the rate of brain development.

Should Boys and Girls Be Educated Differently?

The question of whether boys and girls should be educated differently, as well as separately, continues to be a topic of debate amongst professional educators. In the 1990’s research published in an article by the National Education Association, boys and girls exhibit very different behaviors in the average classroom. For example, research showed that boys called out answers eight times as often than girls, that teachers valued boys’ responses more than girls’ and encouraged boys to problem-solve independently more often than girls.

Those research results led to a greater awareness of gender inequality in education and to positive changes in education for both genders. Creating positive changes in the educational system is an ongoing process. In an article in Education Weekly, Julia Gray expresses the opinion that current educational initiatives supported by President Obama don’t address important surrounding issues. Just as immigration, assimilation, and economics were factors that negatively affected education for boys in the past, they continue to be factors in slowing positive social change for boys today.

The good news is that books like hers raise society’s awareness of those issues and the importance of finding creative new ways to address them.


social change of values

How the Change in the Value of Children Can Raise the Value of Humanity

“Kids are economically useless, but emotionally priceless”.

–Viviana Zelizer

Author, economic sociologist, and professor of sociology at Princeton University, Viviana A. Zelizer examines the cultural and moral foundations of developing economies. In her view, the economy consists of much more than financial profit and loss and cannot be fully understood without first understanding what society values and why. In her book, “Pricing the Priceless Child: The Changing Social Value of Children“, she focuses on the historical changes in the social change of values regarding children as expressed by a changing economy.

According to Zelizer, the economy is affected by that which society deems sacred. Things acquire value through the process of sacralization, or being endowed with religious or sentimental meaning. Zelizer demonstrates, through the use of examples of changes in both the legal and economic system, society’s view of children has changed throughout history.

Child Labor and the Social Change of Values

In the past, children were often viewed as an additional source of labor and income to help provide for the family. Their value was more practical than sentimental, and that view was reflected by the legal system. To illustrate this, she provides the example of a 19th century legal case of the death of a child. In that case, the court ruled that the parents could not be awarded damages because the child wasn’t old enough to provide for the family. In the 20th century, that changed with courts awarding money in such cases primarily to ease emotional suffering.

Within the economic system, the value of children began to be commercialized and exploited by the insurance industry. Insurance policies on children’s lives expressed their value as potential future family income. As the economic value of children decreased, partly in response to the creation of social programs for the elderly, their sentimental value increased. That change was also reflected in the insurance industry, with policies focusing more on covering burial expenses in the event of a tragic early death.

Effects of the Social Change of Values Regarding Children

After child labor laws were enacted, the concept of an allowance for children in exchange for performing tasks within the home became popular. Another manifestation of the social change of values regarding children is the construction of playgrounds. Changing values also resulted in a number of positive social constructs that benefitted children, such as the creation of children’s health programs and preschools. Positive social change of values were reflected within the legal system by the creation of the foster care system and adoption laws.

However, there were also some negative results as the social change of values regarding children shifted from economic to sentimental. One of those results was an increase in the demand for babies to adopt, which had the unintended effect of putting an economic price on children. Additionally, that price was often determined by the age, race, and gender of the child, with more value being placed on white, blue-eyed babies. Older children and children of color, less in demand by those who can afford to adopt, are therefore devalued.

The rise of the black market adoption industry is another example of an unintended negative side effect of the social change of values regarding children.

Towards a Continuing Social Change of Values

According to one review of the book, Zelizer believes that many of the negative effects of the social change of values could be solved by bridging the gap between the world of children and that of adults. Few people would want to go back in history to a time in which children labored under often inhumane and unsafe conditions, like those written about by William Blake and Charles Dickens.

However, there are many instances in which work and play coincide.
Zelizer writes to increase awareness of the interconnectedness of social values regarding intimate familial relationships and how they are reflected in the economy. While some of her work focuses on children, she writes about social attitudes towards the value of women as well. In an article in the Huffington Post, she points out that in the past, many housewives, like children, were also given an allowance. She raises the question of whether homemakers should receive a regular salary for the important services they provide. According to Zelizer, society must recognize that households represent a kind of collaborative economy, and reward women’s contributions in accordance with their true value.

The importance of her writing in raising social awareness with the goal of promoting positive social change in values is the reason that she was elected to the PEN American Center PEN American Centein 2006 and to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in 2007. As a result of continuing work such as hers, we can all look forward to the day when every man, woman and child enjoys equal value.

Cosette's doll, oil painting by Léon-François Comerre. Photograph of reproduction by Siren-Com
Cosette’s doll, oil painting by Léon-François Comerre. Photograph of reproduction by Siren-Com
maternal institution

Women and Childbirth: Taking Back Our Birthright

“A mother does not become pregnant in order to provide employment to medical people. Giving birth is an ecstatic jubilant adventure not available to males. It is a woman’s crowning creative experience of a lifetime.”

John Stevenson

A Century of Changes in the Maternal Institution of Pregnancy and Childbirth

The first known book written about midwifery, written by Jane Sharp, was published in 1671. In her opinion, the profession was unsuitable for men who could never have the first-hand knowledge and experience of the female body equal to that of a woman. She expressed this opinion because even then, the male midwifery that would over time be transformed into the profession of obstetrics, was becoming more common. One of the reasons for that was their suspicion that female midwives participated in the practices of abortion and infanticide. Although many midwives were highly respected within their communities, some were even suspected of witchcraft. Author Tania McIntosh’s book, A Social History of Maternity and Childbirth: Key Themes in Maternity Care

The English Midwifery Act was passed in 1902, largely due to the efforts of nurse, midwife and suffragette Rosalind Paget. Before that, most midwives were unlicensed, although some were licensed by the church. One of the first inventions to was forceps, which are used in difficult breech deliveries. Obstetrics became a specialty when men took over midwifery. The field of obstetrics was devoted to the study of the gestational process and involved developing guidelines for what constituted normal versus pathological. The control over childbirth gradually went from midwives to general practitioners to obstetricians.

Medical Technology That Improved the Maternal Institution of Pregnancy and Childbirth

Before the invention of the fetal monitor in the1960’s a baby could only be monitored with the use of a stethoscope. Today, there are a number of monitoring devices and methods, including the Doppler ultrasound, used to detect the baby’s heartbeat. There is also a device that can be placed on the baby’s head during an internal exam to measure the electrical current generated by the heart.

In addition to devices, the medical profession has also developed a series of screening tests that can often diagnose potential medical conditions even before the baby is born. For example, the prenatal Quad Screen can identify an increased risk of a woman giving birth to an infant with Down’s Syndrome, and the process of amniocentesis can accurately diagnose that condition.

In addition to forceps, the vacuum extractor was developed as another tool to assist in difficult deliveries.

Another medical advance, which many claim is overused, is the cesarean section. Statistics show that Cesarean births have reached nearly 30% in the United States. Part of the reason for this is that more women are choosing it as an elective surgery to prevent potential future complications such as incontinence. Surprisingly, the use of labor-inducing drugs has also risen to an estimated 40% of women in the U.S. even though only 10% is for medical reasons.

The use of an IV is also now part of standard maternity care, while episiotomies are no longer done automatically, as they once were.

State Regulation of the Maternal Institution

Medical advances made during WWII, such as blood transfusion and anti-biotics served to improve infant mortality rates. That was important for the country since as a result of the war, many women began working outside the home, which caused a decline in the birth rate. These advances also led to what some call the “industrialization” of the maternal institution. Increasingly, the health care system began to operate on a strict time schedule. With the use of scans, monitors and surgery, births were scheduled rather than occurring naturally. This scheduling continued after birth, with obstetricians advising feeding and sleeping times.

The professionalization of medical care in the form of education, licensing, and state regulation in many ways transformed women into consumers forced to purchase medical services from a maternal institution increasingly influenced by the state. Some of the benefits to the state provided by the industrialization of the maternal institution includes readily available census data. Hospitals are required to register every birth, as well as information regarding race and gender.

The Effect of Birth Control on the Maternal Institution

Perhaps the medical advance that most impacted women’s experience of pregnancy and childbirth was birth control because it helped give rise to equal rights through feminism. Some early feminists argued that childbearing was partly responsible for the subjugation of women. Women began taking more control of their bodies, and midwifery enjoyed a resurgence that continues into the present.

Among the women responsible for reclaiming the maternal institution of childbirth for women was Janet Balaskas, childbirth educator and founder of the Active Birth Movement. As the name implies, the movement encourages women to take a more active role in creating their own childbirth experience rather than allowing the medical community to dictate it. The movement educates women about effective birthing positions designed for mother and child rather than the comfort and convenience of hospital doctors. It also makes information about alternative birthing options, such as water births, available.

The many changes in the maternal institution over the last century would indicate that progress hasn’t always been positive. Today’s mothers face the daunting task of determining the best of both old and new to make their childbirth experience healthy, safe, and joyous. Luckily, there are now more options available that can help make that possible.

maternal institution
Limestone statuette of a childbirth scene, Period Hellenistic, Date ca. 310 – 30 BC, Culture Cypriot CC by 4.0
social change for women

Maternal Instinct: It’s Not Just For Good Girls Anymore

Ye of the coarser sex who often rave
At fallen women, but never try to save;
Inform me, tell me if you can,
What art thou—but a fallen man?

T. Augustus Forbes Leith

Social Change for Women—From The Fallen Woman to The Single Mother

Fallen women have been represented in patriarchal art, often inspired by religious texts such as the Bible. Religious institutions have been instrumental in shaping society’s beliefs and attitudes about sexuality and motherhood. Throughout history, women have been pressured by society to choose between motherhood and sexuality. Before the relatively recent social change for women brought about by the feminist movement, women were viewed as intellectually inferior as well as physically weaker and in need of protection from men. Ironically, that protection was mostly from other men. According to religious dogma, the price of that protection was obedience.

Marriage was presented as a refuge from danger for women as well as a reward for her abstention from sex and her ability to produce heirs.

One of the most important developments that brought about the greatest social change for women was the birth control pill. Because society’s patriarchal structure is dependent upon controlling reproduction, abortion rights continue to be a political issue. In the past, pregnancy, because it is a visible sign of sexual desire, was viewed by religion as a valid reason to devaluate women. The social impact of that devaluation upon their lives was often devastating.

It was believed that women who chose to exercise their sexuality placed greater value on sex than on motherhood, and therefore lacked maternal instinct and would be unfit mothers. Women were expected not only to control and repress their own sexual desire, but that of men as well, an expectation in which it was often impossible for them to succeed. These religion-based expectations were often legislated into law. For example, in 1837, an Irish legislator stated that

“Irish females should be (…) guardians of their own honour, and be responsible in their own person for all deviations from virtue.”

However, poor women were often at the mercy of wealth employers who demanded sex in exchange for continued employment. The rules of social etiquette such men were expected to adhere to within their own social circles did not apply with women who had no recourse to social or legal remedies for their violation. As a result, many poor women who became pregnant were forced to enter homes for unwed mothers and give up their babies for adoption when they were born. While there, they were often expected to work without pay and were subjected to beatings as punishment.

These homes, often run by the Catholic church, existed in Europe, Canada and the USA, up until the late 20th century. One book, “Fallen Women, Problem Girls: Unmarried Mothers and the Professionalization of Social Work, 1890-1945” describes the social change for women throughout that period.

Social Work—An Important Development in Positive Social Change for Women

One important aspect of social change for women regarding single motherhood was the shift from religious to secular organizations providing social services. With that change, the goal shifted from rehabilitating fallen women to providing protection and equal opportunities for single mothers and their children. Today, there is an exhibit dedicated to the memory of all the fallen women who often suffered for a lifetime by not being permitted to raise their children.

The theory behind the modern social programs designed to support, rather than punish, single mothers is that maternity should be regarded as work deserving of a living wage. Slowly, that theory was accepted and legislated into law. In the U.S., the first state to enact a law providing a pension for mothers was Illinois in 1911. Thirty-nine more states had enacted similar legislation by 1919. Perhaps for the first time in history, mothers in economic need without the support of a husband, whether single, divorced or deserted were offered aid rather than punishment.

In today’s society, there is still some judgment regarding both sexuality and motherhood. However, women are no longer expected to have to choose between them to be considered a good mother. There is still criteria that modern men use to determine who will be a good mother, but like recent social change for women, it too has changed for the better.

social change for women

commodification of baby care

Advertising and The Commodification of Childhood: How Targeting Children Misses the Mark

“These industry professionals have become increasingly influential in the social, cultural, and economic construction of childhood. They affect children’s sense of identity and self, as well as their values, behaviors, relationships with others, and daily activities. They help shape the normative vision of childhood that is held by both children and adults. In this sense, they are creating, transforming, and packaging childhood as a productive cultural concept that they then sell to the companies who make the actual products that children buy”

–Juliet B. Schor

Modern Advertising and the Commodification of Baby Care—How Media is Redefining Childhood

In his book The Commodification of Childhood: The Children’s Clothing Industry and the Rise of the Child Consumer, Daniel Thomas Cook points out that even the layout of department stores is evidence of corporate power to create an advertiser’s vision of childhood. He also points out the extent to which advertisers have begun targeting children rather than their parents. The commodification of baby care is further apparent in the massive number of items for sale that specifically target parents. According to Juliet B. Schor, professor of Sociology at Boston College and author of “Born to Buy: Marketing and the Transformation of Childhood and Culture”, there has been an increase in the study of children’s behavior specifically for the purpose of targeting them as consumers.

In 2010, it was estimated that Canadian children viewed an average of 20,000 television commercials per year. Since those 2010 statistics, laws have been passed in some places against advertising that specifically targets children.  In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission studied the issue in the 1970s but placed no restrictions on advertising to children.

The commodification of baby care in the form of advertising has been blamed for a number of negative social trends, including the high incidence of childhood obesity in the U.S. According to one source, 50% of all ads targeted towards children in the U.S. are for snacks, candy, fast food, and sugary cereals.

Another modern venue for the commodification of baby care is YouTube. According to an article in Time Magazine, Google has an app called YouTube Kids. While the name might inspire confidence in the belief that children using it will be directed towards age-appropriate content, it turns out that they are also directed towards an inordinate number of advertisements directed at them.

Television advertising safeguards don’t apply on the internet, causing a complaint to be filed with the Federal Trade Commission. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry was among those who signed the complaint.

Organizations Opposing The Commodification of Baby Care

Among the organizations fighting to resist the commodification of baby care are The Center for Digital Democracy, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. A recent article in the Guardian pointed to extreme levels of the commodification of baby care in which proponents of advertising to children suggest that it can help teach children critical analytical skills. The director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, Susan Linn, says that

“Marketing targets emotions, not intellect. It trains children to choose products not for the actual value of the product, but because of celebrity or what’s on the package. It undermines critical thinking and promotes impulse buying.”

Numerous studies that have demonstrated just how much influence children have on what their parents purchase. According to an article in Time magazine, in many families, it is the children who decide what is eaten for breakfast and lunch.

Further, in addition to food, 71% of parents polled ask for their children’s opinions regarding purchases of clothes and even where to go on vacation. Businesses consider what children buy with their own money, how they affect what adults buy, and what they will buy when they become adults themselves.

The commodification of baby care is a business strategy with the goal of securing life-long customers. Proof of the effectiveness of this strategy can be demonstrated by the fact that in 2012, McDonald’s spent nearly $42 million dollars on advertising for its children’s Happy Meals.

Despite the potential for profit and the lack of legal restrictions, the advertising industry does regulate itself to some extent. Ian Barber, the communications director of the Advertising Association in the United Kingdom, outlined some of their restriction by saying

“For example, you cannot make a child feel inferior or unpopular for not buying a product. You can’t take advantage of their credulity, or suggest that they’re lacking in courage or loyalty. You can’t encourage them to actively pester their parents, or make a direct exhortation to a child to buy a product.”

As any parent knows, children don’t need much encouragement to pester their parents to buy the latest most popular item. It is no small wonder why in many countries such as Belgium, Denmark, Great Britain and Greece, advertising to children is severely restricted, and in Sweden and Norway, advertising to children under 12 years of age is actually illegal.

commodification of baby care

outsourcing baby care

The Help – All Parents Need Some

“Obviously, you would give your life for your children, or give them the last biscuit on the plate. But to me, the trick in life is to take that sense of generosity between kin, make it apply to the extended family and to your neighbor, your village and beyond.”
Tom Stoppard

Trending: Outsourcing Baby Care

While the term “outsourcing” may conjure up negative images of immigrants and low wages, outsourcing baby care is fast becoming the modern version of the village it takes to raise a child. In fact, there are a great many positive things to be said about employing the unique talents and abilities of multiple people in the interests of raising a child.

Nannies are among the child care professionals utilizes by families with working parents. Despite the fact that the increasing cost of child care can leave little profit from a second income, more women are choosing this option. Several popular television programs such as “Supernanny” have demonstrated the benefits of the intensive training they receive. Some say that they have also contributed to increasing the societal expectation that working mothers be superwomen as well. Working mothers have always been subjected to guilt for outsourcing baby care. They’ve even been subjected to public shaming when they admitted that they couldn’t do it all and sought help.

Many, if not all, new parents would probably prefer to remain at home with their babies, at least for several months. Mothers, both because they are able to breastfeed and because they usually earn less than men, have usually been the parent that opted to remain home to care for the baby. However, the economic consequences for doing so can be substantial and long-lasting. For example, one study concluded that women who left the workplace for a single year earned 20% less for the remainder of their careers. Those who took two to three years sacrificed an additional 10%. That 30% earning disparity remained even twenty years later.

The Resurgence of Wet-Nursing

Statistics like these have a great influence on mothers when deciding how soon to return to work. Whatever she chooses, she is almost sure to experience guilt, either for reducing the family income and becoming economically dependent, or for leaving her child. Studies that have shown the nutritional and emotional benefits of breastfeeding babies for six months to a year only contribute to that guilt.

Wet nursing is becoming a popular option for working mothers who want their children to receive the full benefit of the breast-feeding experience even if they cannot themselves provide it. In the U.S. only half of working mothers receive any paid maternity leave at all. Breast have been so sexualized in western culture that public breastfeeding was once unthinkable. However, it has recently begun gaining wider acceptance and women and babies are no longer relegated to dirty restrooms during babies’ mealtime. Many people are still uncomfortable with it, but more mothers are demanding the right not to be shamed or have to hide a natural process.

The act of breast feeding still retains an element of sacred mother-child bonding. Some believe that outsourcing baby care means outsourcing that bond as well. However, mothers report that rather than viewing them as emotional competition, they grew to consider the wet-nurse a member of the family. Some wet-nurses have continued to visit throughout the child’s lifetime, which contributes to their sense of the permanence of caring.

The loss of the extended supportive family due to increased mobility and economic necessity has resulted in more responsibility for parents. Evolving in tandem with technology, western societies are something of an experiment in which the responsibilities of raising children fall to the parents alone, rather than extended family or the community.

While it may be preferable for a child to be surrounded by a community of caring adults, our mobile society has made it more difficult to monitor our communities. Children once played alone or with other children outdoors, but constant supervision by a trusted adult has now become a necessary element of child safety.

New parents can be completely overwhelmed by the magnitude of the responsibility in caring for a new baby—especially with little or no sleep. Even if it is just long enough to get a good night’s sleep, outsourcing baby care can provide new parents with some much-needed temporary relief. Child care professionals may never be able to replace the extended family, but children can and do benefit from all positive nurturing relationships. Although some view outsourcing baby care as an escape from personal responsibility, it can actually be an opportunity to expand our chosen families.

parental rights
The Lacemaker, Nicolaes Maes, Netherlands, ca. 1656, Credit Line The Friedsam Collection, Bequest of Michael Friedsam, 1931
Holy mother and child

Holy Mother And Child —The Sacred Vocation

Holy Mother And Child Relationship

Art is a powerful force capable of both expressing and influencing the values of the society in which it is created. The value of motherhood as a sacred vocation has been expressed in art throughout history in every culture. Much of that art has been religious in nature and presents an idealized depiction of the exalted holy mother and child relationship. The book Holy Motherhood: Gender, Dynasty, and Visual Culture in the Later Middle Ages, written by Elizabeth L’Estrange, a lecturer in the History of Art at the University of Birmingham in 2012 provides a historical tour of such art throughout the middle ages and presents evidence that shows just how influential art can be in creating and maintaining  social roles for women within patriarchal society.

The extent to which religion has shaped the role of motherhood cannot be underestimated. Separation of church and state is a fairly recent development. Throughout the middle ages, the land and political power of nations were dependent upon inheritance. To insure the genetic identity of royal progeny, it was necessary to cultivate a strict social environment of sexual chastity. Religious art which elevated motherhood to a sacred status served this purpose.

Scriptures of all organized religions and even mythologies elevate motherhood to an exalted state and attainment of the holy mother and child relationship to the highest social ideal. For Christianity, images of the Madonna, so chaste as to be virginal even in motherhood, was presented as the religious role model for women to emulate. For the Hindu religion, the goddess Devi-Ma represents the holy mother and child relationship. For some African religious traditions, it is represented by Yemaya, a creation goddess. Even in Buddhism, Prajnaparamita is represented as the mother of all Buddhas.

Although women were elevated to an exalted state worthy of worship and respectful adoration as a result of their power to produce life, that power has also been feared. Just as obedient women have been credited for human creation, disobedient women have been blamed for human destruction. Within the Christian tradition, Eve serves as the negative example of the consequences of female disobedience to the whole of mankind.

Another example is that of La Malinche, a Mexican princess who was given given as a slave to conquistador Hernán Cortés. She both served as a mediator and bore him a child. In native mythologies, she became a traitor responsible for the destruction of the whole Aztec Empire. Conversely, the Virgin of Guadalupe, attributed with the values of self-sacrifice is revered. Artistic depictions of her can be seen in virtually every city in Mexico.

One of the social effects of the patriarchal laws of inheritance is that a woman’s central purpose becomes her reproductive function. Artistic depictions of the holy mother and child relationship serve to maintain social awareness of, and adherence to, this value. The dangers associated with childbirth further elevates the social value of motherhood. In nearly all human societies, women about to give birth are tended to by their extended families, and the birth of a healthy baby is a cause for celebration.

The majority of artwork throughout history have upheld the idealized image of mothers as virginal and self-sacrificing. This is due in large part to the fact that those who benefited most from women’s self-sacrifice, the royal families, were among the only people that could afford to commission artwork. Today, rather than through paintings and sculptures, idealized images of mothers are transmitted through the airwaves in television commercials. Technology and clothing styles may have changed, but the social expectation of maternal chastity and self-sacrifice remains the same.

Even today, mothers whose sexual behavior casts doubt on the paternity of a child is treated with contempt. Popular television show hosts like Maury Povich and Jerry Springer reveal the results of paternity tests on national television. Live audience members hurl insults and moral judgments, and home viewers enjoy a brief sense of moral and social superiority.

In a very real sense, the lack of separation between church and state resulted in the separation of motherhood and sexuality. In response to the image of the virginal Madonna, its opposite, the whore, was born.

Despite continuous historical media bombardment of these two opposite and extreme images, in reality, mothers are just human. They do indeed sacrifice for their children and cultivate values sacred to humankind, such as patience and love. They also occasionally lose their patience. In fact, most mothers are losing patience with social expectations of exalted perfection.

Holy mother and child
Virgin and Child in an Apse, Copy after Robert Campin, Netherlands, 1480
parental rights

Parental Rights : Really A Right Or A Privilege?

“Your children are not your children, they come through you, but they are life itself, wanting to express itself.”  – Wayne Dyer

Meaning Of Parental Rights?

Parental rights is a term most often used within the legal system in custodial cases. The history of parental rights is a long one. Not everyone agrees on the definition, but with the help of philosophers, sociologists, and psychologists, that definition continues to evolve.
One of the earliest definitions was termed propertarianism.

According to this theory, children are the property of their parents. While the children have no rights, parents have the obligation to care for them. This theory is based on the concept that parents own the genetic material that produced the children. Since most people now find the concept of owning another human being offensive, with few exceptions, this extreme view has been largely replaced by other more progressive theories.

Biology coupled with advances in reproductive technology made it necessary to rethink the basis of parental rights. For the first time, it became possible for people to donate genetic materials to create children for parents other than themselves. Even in cases of adopted or step-children, there is no “ownership” of genetic material. Some adherents of the biology theory claimed gestation as the basis for parental rights, and that men could only acquire those rights through marriage and adoption as allowed by the mother. It held that when there was a conflict between genetic and gestational mothers, the law should favor the gestational mother. The once all-important biological connection has lost much of its power in favor of other important aspects of parenting.

Parental rights based on biology alone was replaced by parental rights based on the best interests of the child. This theory is still often used in custody cases where there is suspected abuse or neglect, or when one parent proves more capable of meeting the child’s needs than the other. Another closely related school of thought focuses on the interests of parents and children. According to this theory, parents satisfy some of their own needs, such as the need for closeness and intimacy, through satisfying the needs of their children. Children need individual attention and guidance based on their dispositions and preferences, the knowledge of which is gained over time through consistent interaction. In this way, strong familial relationships are forged, relationships that can be damaged by excessive intrusion by the state.

Critics of this theory developed another called constructionism, which argues that the rights and obligations of parents aren’t based in biology, but are in fact social constructs. According to constructionists, parental rights are the result of a social agreement between prospective parents and the social community responsible for the care of its youngest members. One manifestation of this community is the state. In the contructionist’s view, sufficient care and nurturing is more important than biology, and the state plays a larger role in ensuring a minimum standard of care.

The Children’s Liberation movement holds that parents should have no rights over children and that children should have the same legal status as adults. Since they aren’t able to reason as adults, proponents of this theory argue that to make decisions, they can consult adults they trust who do have that capacity. Good parenting according to this theory is the process of assisting children in becoming fully autonomous. It concludes that it is not possible for parents to simultaneously have rights and satisfactorily perform their parental duties. Closely related is the right to an open future theory, which holds that parents shouldn’t limit their children’s future options with their own personal beliefs or preferences. Some examples of what would constitute such limiting would be an arranged marriage or an expectation that a child follow in a parent’s professional footsteps.

The pendulum swing from children being considered the private property of parents towards children’s rights went so far that philosopher Hugh LaFollette suggested licensing parents. In his view, enforcement could consist of tax incentives and other benefits for those in compliance. Alternatives to licensing that have been suggested as ways to improve the quality of parenting include paid family leave, government day care, and mandatory birth control. Most agree that monitoring or counseling is better than licensing due to the potential biases and fallibility of the educational content and testing process for such a license.

The rights of parents and children alike are best served by a shared sense of responsibility for the care and nurturing of children by the entire community in which they live. Like justice, a lack of human rights for anyone results in fewer human rights for everyone. The refinement of the definition of the rights and responsibilities of parenthood will continue to evolve with each new scientific and technological development. Whatever direction the pendulum may swing next, the one basic parenting principle with which everyone has always agreed is the unchanging importance of love.

Broken Eggs, Jean-Baptiste Greuze, 1756, Credit Line Bequest of William K. Vanderbilt, 1920
Broken Eggs, Jean-Baptiste Greuze, 1756, Credit Line Bequest of William K. Vanderbilt, 1920
family life and war

In Family Life And War – The Roles Mothers and Children Assume In Armed Conflict

“If you insist upon fighting to protect me, or ‘our’ country, let it be understood, soberly and rationally between us, that you are fighting to gratify a sex instinct which I cannot share; to procure benefits which I have not shared and probably will not share; but not to gratify my instincts, or protect either myself or my country. For, the outside will say, in fact, as a woman, I have no country. As a woman I want no country. As a woman, my country is the whole world…”

Virginia Woolf (1882 – 1941) England

Family Life and War—Harsh Realities

The book War and Motherhood: International Perspectives, written in  Dana Cooper, in 2014, expands our understanding of wartime experiences and zooms into the mosaic relationships between mothers and children, and the divers roles both have assumed during periods of armed conflict. Dana Cooper is Associate Professor of History at Stephen F. Austin State University, USA.

Military publications acknowledge and write about the negative aspects of family life and war. Some of those adverse effects include increased stress, PTSD, and financial difficulties. The military has begun making a greater effort to lessen the potentially destructive power that these side effects of war often have on families. Through counseling and education, families are being provided with more tools to effectively deal with the life-altering realities of their loved ones having experienced the violence of war.

While throughout history the majority of combatants in war have been men, women and children are often caught in the crossfire. Among the many ways that children are affected by war, among the most common are psychological difficulties caused by the extended separation from a beloved parent. Children are extremely sensitive to the emotions of the adults around them, and spouses of military members experience a constant level of fear surrounding the possibility that they will be killed in battle. Such an event would result in the loss of both a life partner and a supportive parent for their child. Today, it is no longer just men and fathers who participate in physical combat, but women and mothers as well.

Women In War

Back in 2010, it was estimated that over 30,000 of the 200,000 women serving in the U.S. military were deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan were mothers. In addition to the risk of rape by the enemy, many of these women faced sexual assault from their own fellow soldiers. Statistics vary, but reported incidents range between one in three and one in five. Disturbingly, one of the most common consequences of reporting an assault was that the victim was involuntarily discharged from military service. That means that reporting an assault most often resulted in the loss of an entire career.

Another phenomenon that demonstrates the incompatibility of family life and war is rape. According to Gita Sahgal of Amnesty International, rape is regularly used as one of the weapons of war.

“Rape is often used in ethnic conflicts as a way for attackers to perpetuate their social control and redraw ethnic boundaries… Women are seen as the reproducers and carers of the community…Therefore if one group wants to control another they often do it by impregnating women of the other community because they see it as a way of destroying the opposing community.”

The devastating effects that rape has on women, children, and communities is well documented.

Hope For an End to War

Throughout history, women have been portrayed as peacemakers, yet as relatively powerless. One major literary exception to this portrayal was Lysistrata, a play written by Aristophanes and performed in 411 B.C. In the play, the women strenuously object to the negative combination of family life and war. Their strenuous objection results in their uniting and refusing to have sexual relations with their husbands until they ended the war and began living in peace. Similarly, in Iceland, in 1975, women united and went on strike to force passage of an equal rights amendment guaranteeing equal pay for equal work, and won. The power of women when they are united in purpose is capable of creating positive changes of great social magnitude.

Partly as the result of women’s political activism against war, in 2000, the United Nations Security Council passed resolution 1325. The goal of the resolution is to increase women’s global participation in negotiating peace during wartime. In 2011, The U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP), the Peace Research Institute-Oslo (PRIO), and the Royal Norwegian Embassy hosted an international symposium in which action plans for the next decade on the next decade were discussed. With an increase in women, and mothers, global participation in important peace negotiations, perhaps one day, as in Lysistrata, they may succeed in bringing about an end to war.

family life and war
Gaza strip, Palestine, 1988 Robert Croma

Intellectual Baby Care Resources Helps in Raising Smarter Children

The Power of Music

Every parent wants to provide their child with every possible advantage to survive in a highly competitive world. During the 90’s, one of the potential advantages that was most focused on was parents’ increasing their child’s IQ. A famous study that showed some temporary improvement in spatial IQ test scores after listening to classical music resulted in a number of intellectual baby care products.

Baby Einstein, one of the most popular videos created using the theory that early exposure to intellectual material increased IQ, was purchased by Disney in 2001 and had sales of more than $17 million. However, despite the financial success of these videos, one study reported that for babies from 8 to 16 months old, every hour spent watching these videos rather than experiencing human interaction resulted in their having six to eight fewer words in their vocabularies compared to other babies their age. For children 17 to 24 months, their vocabularies increased and the negative effects were reduced.

While the claims made during the 90’s regarding the ability of intellectual baby care products to increase I.Q. were perhaps exaggerated to increase sales, experts agree that exposure to music may be one contributing factor in raising smart children.In an article in Scientific American, Don Campbell, author of more than 20 books on music, education, and health, including “The Mozart Effect” says that

“Music has a tremendous organizing quality to the brain.”

In addition to that quality, he also believes that music can also modulate mood and alleviate stress. Stress has been shown to be one of the major obstacles to learning.

While listening to music can improve learning ability, experts believe that learning to play an instrument has a more positive, and permanent effect on IQ. According to a study of 25,000 students conducted at the University of California, Los Angeles, those who had received music instruction tested higher on SATs and in reading proficiency than those who had not. Luckily, with the advent of the internet and YouTube videos, music lessons are now available to a far greater number of families than ever before.

The Power of Words

However, when it comes to intellectual baby care, there are more important factors to consider for building a strong foundation upon which your child’s budding intellect can be built. One of those factors is proper nutrition. Happily, the rising popularity of community gardens is resulting in an increase in the amount of healthy organic foods available for families, regardless of income.

Perhaps the best, and least expensive, element of intellectual baby care is verbal interaction. According to the results of one study, possibly the best intellectual baby care product parents can buy is a dictionary. The study measured how verbal ability can be affected by socio-economic conditions and found that children from professional families heard 2,100 words in an hour, children from working class families heard 1,200 and children from poor families heard only 600.

The study concluded that by the age of three, a child from a poor family would hear 30 million fewer words than a child from a professional family. Vocabulary is one of the most basic building blocks of knowledge. On a standard Bayley Cognitive Assessment, children from families with incomes below the poverty line score one-fifth of a standard deviation lower at age nine months, with the gap increasing to half a standard deviation by two years.

The good news is that whatever their income, parents can utilize libraries, the internet, and perhaps most importantly, one another, to expand their vocabularies as well as their knowledge and experience. These studies have all helped demonstrate that caring well for children begins with parents caring well for themselves. Today’s children are fortunate in that the income gap is becoming less relevant because parents have access to so many valuable resources. Of all the intellectual baby care products and resources available to children, affectionate communicative parents are still the most important, and effective.