(Un)common Sense

Things are nutty at the moment, but lengthier posts will resume soon.


In the meantime, I thought this was fascinating: a post about the (relatively recent) belief amongst psychologists that maternal love was a damaging force to even (especially) the very youngest of children.  To today’s enlightened (or “enlightened”) minds it seems absurd to ever think such a notion might have gained not only widespread currency but the endorsement of experts… after all, isn’t motherly love one of the most basic shared foundations of all human experience??


Be that as it may, it’s also still subject to social construction.  The very universality and instinctiveness of the maternal impulse are what render it such a fascinating – and shocking – example of the social construction of knowledge.  What we label “good” and “bad” are often disconnected from actual evidence, as this post so powerfully demonstrates.


(Sidenote: a more contemporary example is the widespread belief that two-parent families are superior to single-parent families, and that, as a corollary, single-parent families should strive to become two-parent families.  It turns out, however, that when the research is thoroughly parsed, most of the low achievement in children of single-parent families can be attributed to poverty (the poor are more likely to live in single-parent households) and that, moreover, when single-parent families become two-parent families, children’s achievement often declines markedly – the operative theory being that, more so than a mother and father, what children need most for optimum functioning and development is in fact stability, which can be as disrupted by the addition of a new parent as by the loss of one.  Much like the twentieth-century belief that maternal love was inherently dangerous, this suggests that much of what we hold to be “common sense” beliefs about the psychology of the family have more to do with ideology and social construction than with actual science or evidence.)

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