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Liedloff and The Continuum Concept

post #1 of 86
Thread Starter 
I've recently recieved this book via Amazon.. I was so excited when I did. I started reading the book with a sense of hope, but now that I've finished, I'm left feeling deflated. I'll explain why in a moment. I'll start from a positive point of view first, I loved the idea of holding a baby close (slinging) for the first 6 or so months of the baby's life. I liked the idea of encouraging independence and healthy emotional growth.

But here are my sticking points. I realise that there may be another thread out there about Continuum Concept, but I couldn't find anything when I tried to search that was specific.

1. I was very uncomfortable about Liedloff's suggestion in the book that homosexuality is a result of a defective Mother/child relationship. pg. 122-123

2. I felt uncomfortable about the generalizations about Western behaviour, such as people who may choose a lifetime of travelling the world, or a devotion to academia (pg.119) for a lot of years to be a sign of defectiveness in the Western individual.

3. I felt that men and women were reduced to nothing more than gender roles, and their identities solely related to that. I could almost sniff a biology is destiny scent there.

4. I was deeply offended at Liedloff's suggestion that any WOMAN who doesn't have the economic need to work should quit their job. pg.160

As I said before, there was so much that was positive. I have tried to ease my discontent with the fact that the book was written and printed in the late 1970's... but the knowledge of this doesn't provide that much solace.

What are your thoughts people, I'd be really interested to know?

Peace
post #2 of 86
I just finally finished reading the book last week. My thoughts:

1. I chose to just disregard this part. It doesn't fit with my way of thinking. I'm sure there are some cases where this situation might be said to hold, but I don't think it works as a blanket statement at *all*.

2. I saw it as her looking at people who take this to the extreme, not so much as people who have a healthy, balanced desire to travel and study. I agree with that way of looking at it.

3. I think that looking at her context for the book it makes sense. In a culture where roles have been virtually unchanged for years upon years, male and female roles would be quite distinct.

4. The phrase "But very often these jobs are a matter of choice; the mothers could, if they realized the urgency of their presence during the baby's first year, give up the job in order to avert the deprivations which would damage the baby's entire life and be a burden to her for years as well" does not say to me that a woman must quit working permanently. It specifically states "during the baby's first year" which could be arranged by being temporarily unemployed, by taking a leave of absence, or by having a long maternity leave (which we have here in Canada). She also does bring up the suggestion of women taking their children to work with them, so she's not suggesting that employment is counter to attached parenting.

In general, I really enjoyed the book but questioned some things (the homosexuality issue for example). I found the tone to be a bit ominous and would have enjoyed more of a focus on what else parents can do for their children or what adults can do for themselves if they've missed out on the in-arms experience.
post #3 of 86
Here ya go:

http://www.mothering.com/discussions...=homosexuality

(started three years ago but still going)
post #4 of 86
She doesn't have children, first of all. What turned me off about the book was the complete lack of acknowledgement that we don't live in a tribe! We live in a modern world, with all of the isolation/lack of family/dangerous streets, etc., that goes along with that. So for me, most of her book was irrelevant to my experience as a parent.

(Plus, my mom met her and had lunch with her once, and said she was a nutjob.)
post #5 of 86
I found parts of the book helpful and others not-so-helpful.

It was helpful as an affirmation of attachment parenting. I agree that her emphasis is on the first several months of life ... after which she seemed to think it was better for babies to spend most of their time being carried around by active older siblings while mothers focused on their adult tasks of living.

About the adult tasks part -- that was a little guilt-inducing for me. I started feeling bad for being so child-centered, and also for not having more hobbies that are interesting for children to watch. My writing isn't actually interesting to my kids at this point.

They do like to help me with cooking and housework -- but with them so young, I tend to do the bare minimum and spend more time watching and playing with them -- bad news in her book, I guess. I need to be their center -- not make them mine, right?

Also, I felt a lot of guilt for hindering my children's development of their self-preservation instincts. You know, how she seems to think that if we don't rush to protect our toddlers from danger, they'll do just fine protecting themselves. And when our western children do have accidents, she seems to think it's all due to our expectation that they will.

Especially her thoughts on children who get burned: she really comes across to me as saying that it happens because the mother subconsciously wants it to happen.:

And before reading her book, I'd actually thought I allowed my kids more freedom to explore than most moms: whenever they were doing something "unorthodox," I'd ask myself if it was really a safety risk, or if there was a way to make it less risky. I always tried to make it possible for them to do the things they wanted to. Still do.

But realized I was a far cry from the Yequana moms, who apparently felt okay about babies handling sharp machetes, running in and out of straw-thatch huts with hot firebrands, and going swimming and canoing in the river without any adults. Oh, and toddlers playing next to deep pits with water at the bottom.

One thing I've concluded is that the Yequana may indeed be genetically superior to us, in the area of self-preservation. Natural selection has continued, without interruption, up to the present time for them, whereas it has been interrupted in civilized culture.

Our culture has, for many years, been able to protect genetic strains that would have died out under the strict "survival of the fittest" regime that's probably even now still prevalent in the South American jungle. But I honestly don't see it as a bad thing, that so many more genetic strains can survive in the modern world.

I think those of us who are "weaker" according to jungle standards, still have many unique strengths to contribute. This may be partly why we have to be more protective of our babies than they do -- but I'm sure part of it is cultural, too.

It's often hard to divide instinct from culture -- but I know I can't pretend to feel comfortable letting my toddler run down a sloping hill which abruptly ends at a 6-foot drop-off onto hard concrete (an issue we dealt with the other day). Regardless of what a Yequana mother might do, I have to do what I feel good about.
post #6 of 86
I think that The Continuum Concept is a revolutionary book, but - it should have been written by an anthropologist. What I mean is, I think her lack of academic training in this area is very obvious and a lot of her observations and the context she puts them in are highly subjective.

If Kathryn Dettwyler had written this book, I think it would be a much more useful book and would have provided a lot more context.

For a more helpful view of how traditional cultures view children and a baby's natural environment, I highly recommend "Our Babies, Ourselves" if you haven't already read it. It's wonderful!

Also, "Babies Celebrated" is wonderful just because of the pictures of different cultures and how they relate to their babies. That one is a bit harder to find, though.

This is just my humble opinion and your mileage may vary!
post #7 of 86
For me, I look on it as a historical document. I look at it as a reminder of the cultural biases of the 20th century- how someone can be so receptive to a new culture, and yet so unwilling to address their own privilege. Sometimes, that keeps me humble.
If you look at CC in context with the other baby books around at the time, like Dr Spocks twentrillionth edition, it's revolutionary. A parenting manual, though? No. Take what you can use, and treasure the book for what it is: a thinking parent's springboard.
post #8 of 86
Quote:
Originally Posted by flapjack View Post
Take what you can use, and treasure the book for what it is: a thinking parent's springboard.
Good point! One thing I can say for the book is that it got me thinking. There's a lot of good stuff in it.
post #9 of 86
Thread Starter 
Thank you for all your replies ladies, much appreciated

I was a little disappointed with the book by time I finished it, but I definitely agree that there are points that are helpful. So as flapjack suggested, it's probably best to take what I need, and leave what I don't.

Peace
post #10 of 86
Quote:
Originally Posted by flapjack View Post
For me, I look on it as a historical document. I look at it as a reminder of the cultural biases of the 20th century- how someone can be so receptive to a new culture, and yet so unwilling to address their own privilege. Sometimes, that keeps me humble.
If you look at CC in context with the other baby books around at the time, like Dr Spocks twentrillionth edition, it's revolutionary. A parenting manual, though? No. Take what you can use, and treasure the book for what it is: a thinking parent's springboard.
:

I read it a few months back and was inspired but also overwhelmed a bit by some of it. I've processed it for a while and it's very much a "take what you like, leave the rest" kind of book for me. I did like how it inspired me to throw DD around a bit more, . I also feel that the part where baby just is worn and I do my thing works well for us-- I finally got BWing down w/ DD and I think she thrives when I spend some time cleaning while she rides along, every day.
post #11 of 86
nak...the main thing i took away was how important it is to babywear and not just set down the baby even if the babe is "okay" with it.
post #12 of 86
I liked the book alot, though it DEFINATELY has its faults. What I would really like to see are different views of the Yequana, partly to gain more insight and partly to check Leidloff's view of things.
The email list I have found to actually be much better than the book. They discuss many things, different native tribes, EC etc. All of the posts are very deep and well thought out and I have learned alot. Here is the website for the list. I believe there is a quote somewhere of her taking back the part about homosexuality.
http://www.continuum-concept.org/
post #13 of 86

I loved the theory behind it...

but I am discouraged that it just cannot be put into practice, b/c we don't have the tribal community to support it. While I agree with all of the attachment ideas, some of the freedoms that were given to children are just not possible in this day in age. And although I feel that I am extremely supportive of my children's exploratory activity, I feel that I am contradicting myself to them when I have to put my foot down for something that I know is just to dangerous or out of their control. Maybe that is too confusing for kids. I don't know...for the most part, I found it to be a great read. Like other posters have said, I take what I want from it and leave the rest.
post #14 of 86
I haven't read it, but honestly, I am afraid to.

Mainly because I get the screaming heebie jeebies at anything that appears to be "noble savage teaches cultured people about real life".

I am especially troubled when any person (be they amateur anthropologists or professionals) takes ONE group, at ONE point in time and universalizes them as "the way humans are meant to be".

Sorry, this group is not a living artifact of our hunter gather histories. In fact, cross cultural analysis of hunter gatherer communities across time and location shows a great deal of variety in gender roles, child rearing, and so forth.

Also, many hunter gatherer communities have practices we often find morally reprehensible, such as infanticide and euthanasia for the elderly or disabled - cherry picking what we like out of a culture tells us more about what we are looking for than what that culture actually is about.

I feel a bit odd about being critical of a book I haven't read - so the general caveats apply - but I have read many reviews of the book, so I am not completely clueless. It is on my list of books to read if I ever find a copy (I don't want to pay for it).

My 2 cents.
post #15 of 86
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by linguistmama View Post
I liked the book alot, though it DEFINATELY has its faults. What I would really like to see are different views of the Yequana, partly to gain more insight and partly to check Leidloff's view of things.
The email list I have found to actually be much better than the book. They discuss many things, different native tribes, EC etc. All of the posts are very deep and well thought out and I have learned alot. Here is the website for the list. I believe there is a quote somewhere of her taking back the part about homosexuality.
http://www.continuum-concept.org/
I will definitely look this site up.. Thanks for the link.

From a hermeneutical position, I wasn't sure which method Liedloff was using in her interpretations. She struck me as nothing more than an 'observer' and interpreted through her own western moulded lens of perception the culture that she was observing.

On closer reflection, the fact that there are no Yequana voices to be heard, only Liedloff's own interpretation of the communications and the tribe itself, made me nervous and consequently I think that many parts of the book are the authors own idealistic interpretations of events.

Without meaning to be too negative though, there are some aspects which have been helpful

Peace
post #16 of 86
Quote:
Originally Posted by siobhang View Post
I haven't read it, but honestly, I am afraid to.

Mainly because I get the screaming heebie jeebies at anything that appears to be "noble savage teaches cultured people about real life".

I am especially troubled when any person (be they amateur anthropologists or professionals) takes ONE group, at ONE point in time and universalizes them as "the way humans are meant to be".

Sorry, this group is not a living artifact of our hunter gather histories. In fact, cross cultural analysis of hunter gatherer communities across time and location shows a great deal of variety in gender roles, child rearing, and so forth.

Also, many hunter gatherer communities have practices we often find morally reprehensible, such as infanticide and euthanasia for the elderly or disabled - cherry picking what we like out of a culture tells us more about what we are looking for than what that culture actually is about.

I feel a bit odd about being critical of a book I haven't read - so the general caveats apply - but I have read many reviews of the book, so I am not completely clueless. It is on my list of books to read if I ever find a copy (I don't want to pay for it).

My 2 cents.
Excellent post. I have read the book, and I couldn't put into words some of the things that bothered me about it, but you did. That is exactly how I felt about it.
post #17 of 86
Quote:
Originally Posted by oceanbaby View Post
She doesn't have children, first of all. What turned me off about the book was the complete lack of acknowledgement that we don't live in a tribe! We live in a modern world, with all of the isolation/lack of family/dangerous streets, etc., that goes along with that.
.)



That is exactly how I feel. We don't live in a tribe, so to have tribal expectations is pretty unrealistic. Plus, people "glamorize" (for lack of a better word) the whole tribal thing. There are valid downsides to that culture as well...things that would never fly in our world.
post #18 of 86
Quote:
Originally Posted by siobhang View Post
I haven't read it, but honestly, I am afraid to.

Mainly because I get the screaming heebie jeebies at anything that appears to be "noble savage teaches cultured people about real life".

I am especially troubled when any person (be they amateur anthropologists or professionals) takes ONE group, at ONE point in time and universalizes them as "the way humans are meant to be".
Great post. I haven't read the book either, and yeah, I know, I shouldn't be discussing it then BUT I've read lots of reviews and have heard it discussed by people whose opinions I trust and I think I have an idea of the main ideas.
post #19 of 86
Quote:
Originally Posted by siobhang View Post
I haven't read it, but honestly, I am afraid to.

Mainly because I get the screaming heebie jeebies at anything that appears to be "noble savage teaches cultured people about real life".

I am especially troubled when any person (be they amateur anthropologists or professionals) takes ONE group, at ONE point in time and universalizes them as "the way humans are meant to be".

Sorry, this group is not a living artifact of our hunter gather histories. In fact, cross cultural analysis of hunter gatherer communities across time and location shows a great deal of variety in gender roles, child rearing, and so forth.

Also, many hunter gatherer communities have practices we often find morally reprehensible, such as infanticide and euthanasia for the elderly or disabled - cherry picking what we like out of a culture tells us more about what we are looking for than what that culture actually is about.

.



Yep. This, too. And I have read it.
post #20 of 86
I feel the same way you do about the book. It was interesting, but nothing I was going to hang my hat on. She idealizes one culture and villainizes Western culture. Nothing is that black-and-white. I also didn't like the homophobic and anti-working-outside-the-home slant. The truth is, we are not a hunting-and-gathering society, and you can't just wholly transplant a lifestyle that works in the jungle to the industrialized world.

I much preferred the book Our Babies, Ourselves which is a more objective anthropological view of several different cultures and their childrearing practices, with conclusions about what keeps children healthiest across the board. It points out practices where Westerners need improvement (physical touch and proximity), but also draws attention to some of our positives, like talking to our babies and promoting intellectual development.
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