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The Big Answer


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Mother Guilt: How Our Culture Blames Mothers for What's Wrong with Society

a book by Diane Eyer

(our site's book review)

This book is ambiguous and creates ambivalence in the informed reader because it presents an odd hybrid of fact and fiction, of sense and nonsense. First the bad news: She feebly tries to disprove well-proven attachment theory and child development knowledge, by couching misinformation in such contexts as “no research that I know of has shown . . .” Specifically, she tries to disprove the well-proven need for bonding.

In most parts of the world, infants go where mothers go—attached to their bodies, which helps fill vital bonding needs
In most parts of the world, infants go where mothers go—attached to their bodies, which helps fill vital bonding needs


Eyer falls on her face a few times
Eyer falls on her face a few times

Eyer's obvious goal is to get working mothers off the hook by showing that the babies they have at home don’t really need the bonding that science incontrovertibly proved long ago they did need. She falls on her face here. (Another woman falling on her face on this issue of getting working moms off the hook is Sandra Scarr, but Baumrind sets her straight in The Average Expectable Environment Is Not Good Enough: A Response to Scarr.) She next pushes liberal tax-and-spend social engineering agendas in which she talks almost socialistically about the “redistribution of resources (money)” as though solutions to character problems can be bought.

Eyer pushes liberal tax-and-spend social engineering agendas for childcare aid to assuage society's guilt trip
Eyer pushes liberal tax-and-spend social engineering agendas for childcare aid to assuage society's guilt trip

Eyer accuses society of being too cheap to care for its kids, and takes our better child development experts (e.g., T. Berry Brazelton, Benjamin Spock, and Penelope Leach, David Blankenhorn, John Bowlby) to task for their “psychobabble,” which apparently encompasses any child development science she finds difficult to understand. Even though she’s a psychologist, there is obviously a lot of basic information on the subject that she has yet to absorb.

Denying the negative effects of single parenting, when the damning statistics in the matter have been available to professional and layperson alike for many years, is simply disinformation at its worst. And to this she adds the error of denigrating the importance of breast-feeding. Even though psychological research has been going on for nearly a century, much more than many other sciences (especially Information-Age-related and computer-related and genetic engineering), she insults her own science (psychology) by saying much of its research is pseudoscience and “psychological research is . . . in its infancy.” Interesting that something over a century old is labeled an "infant"! Go figure . . .

Always out to lessen mothers' guilt, Eyer denigrates the importance of breast-feeding, even though it IS important
Always out to lessen mothers' guilt, Eyer denigrates the importance of breast-feeding, even though it IS important

It’s difficult to tell if this woman had kids herself and is now in denial because of the disappointments she encountered that she was desperate to avoid the blame for, which dovetails with her assertions that kids are highly resilient and therefore their upbringing environments are less important than everyone says—which is, of course, utter nonsense and will seem blasphemous to any knowledgeable social scientist. Why not let kids raise themselves if their upbringing has no value?

The fact that lots and lots of money for a nationalized childcare system is one of the agendas in her to-do list sheds light on the matter. How can you get an agenda accepted if its primary ingredient—childcare centers—are "harmful"? The exaggerations, misinformation and sleight-of-hand in her book are shamelessly done in the vernacular and context of a science expose, where she "exposes the fakes," as if on Dateline. Unfortunately, Eyer's exposé says far more about Diane Eyer than it says about the science of child development in particular or psychology in general.

From the 1970s to the 1990s good/excellent quality care went from 26% to 13% in centers
From the 1970s to the 1990s good/excellent quality care went from 26% to 13% in centers; MCs' caregiving costs (free) and gas for transportation (minimal) represent minimized economic expenditures which will be particularly appreciated as childcare costs rise and yet childcare center quality decreases


Childcare centers should house friends, relatives, elders and kids—not strangers and high-turnover workers of questionable competence
Childcare centers should house friends, relatives, elders and kids—not strangers and high-turnover workers of questionable competence

The best way to deduce what’s really trying to happen in this book is to examine the underlying political agenda: She’s a liberal who’s pushing the Big Government/Big Spending agenda of the welfare-state left. She has perceived, rightly or wrongly, that the right-wingers are blaming mothers for everything and condemning childcare centers as unacceptable substitutes for mothers staying home doting on their kids, and they’re citing child development research as proving their case. (The research exposes the right-wingers' case as fraud, to be frank, since even though centers are shown to often be weak at childcare, so are "mothers staying home doting on their kids"—which turned out to be no better than the centers, and worse in some ways! Mothers isolated with kids all day has been shown to often be unhealthy for all concerned, as countless authors on our website discuss.)

So Eyer twisted the facts to try to somehow prove that the science which seems to supports these conservatives is flawed, so they’re therefore wrong and should be ignored, and Eyer’s Big Government agenda should be adopted because of her glorious exposé of a century of bad science. It’s doubtful that many thinking adults will buy her nonsense. The hypocrisy of taking all the psychology that supports one’s agenda and presenting it as great science while concomitantly presenting all the psychology (and history and sociology and social psychology) that disproves the validity of her agenda as poppycock will be too much for most people to endure, although the most bloodily bleeding-heart of the liberals may try.

Blaming mothers for the ills of a changing society is like blaming the village goat for the misdeeds of villagers
Blaming mothers for the ills of a changing society is like blaming the village goat for the misdeeds of villagers


The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet—was this portrayal ever real?
The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet—was this portrayal ever real?

Okay, now the good news: She’s making some very important points here (too bad she made them by taking cheap shots at all and sundry) such as: