Book Review Of “A World of Babies: Imagined Childcare Guides For Seven Societies”
“A World of Babies: Imagined Childcare Guides for Seven Societies” is a book written by Judy DeLoache and Alma Gottlieb. It was published by the Cambridge University Press. As the title suggests, it is about childbirth and rearing with illustrations from seven different cultures across the world. It focuses on how different societies view the birth of a child and how these views shape the child’s upbringing. The authors seem to highlight the variations in the way children are perceived throughout the world by drawing comparisons that aimed at helping mothers ease their task of nurturing a child’s growth. Written by anthropologists, historians and psychologists, it provides a manual for childcare especially by changing the perspective we have on the subject while still reassuring parents that there is no wrong or right way to rear a child.
Individual chapters in the book talk about raising a child in a different society. Seven cultures are highlighted in this book such as the Fulani and Beng in Africa, the Puritans in America, the Turkish villagers, the Balinese people in Indonesia, the Warlpiri from aboriginal Australia and the Ifaluk in Micronesia. In formulating the story, an array of different authors has analyzed the anthropological aspects of each culture. Anthropology is the study of human beings over time in relation to their physical characteristics, the environment they inhabit, social interactions and most importantly their culture. In relation to childcare, they paid attention to the cultural norms of these societies and their influence on their perspective of children. Cultural anthropology also includes psychology as a part of its study. These examples indicate that people from various parts of the world and at different times historically have different perceptions about infantry. Therefore, the book seeks to bring out the diversity of beliefs in childcare.
Though the book is mainly about childcare and the way it varies among different cultures, there seem to be various points or themes that stand out across the board. These general themes are what illustrate the main purpose for writing the book. For instance, the questions where the baby should sleep, the religion to introduce them to or the kinds of food to give them and at what stage are common among all the documented societies. In the contemporary setting, these questions are still being raised by mothers and the solutions for each vary, which is the authors’ purpose. They seek to clarify that there is not a one way of bringing up children, and instead a lot of consideration is given to the particular family’s cultural background. This theme of diversity, obviously created by cultural variations.
Another common feature is the challenges faced by mothers during childcare. They include infant mortality, illnesses associated with children, how to supervise them and the socialization process where beliefs and values of parents are passed on to the infants. The book brings out the diverse ways through which these obstacles in childcare are tackled. Each society throughput its evolution has held different beliefs on various issues and often they have been used as guidelines to solving challenges. For instance, the spiritual aspect of a society varies in that there are those that believe in a supernatural power while there are others who do not. Among the societies featured in the book, the Puritans had a queer way of securing their children’s spiritual wellbeing. They raised their children from the onset of birth in a Christian manner and sang a hymn to lull them to sleep.
With regard to infant mortality, a subject that has been around since time immemorial, societies in the third world countries are the most affected. This is mainly attributed to their economic status that hinders quality health services. Once a child is safely born, measures are taken to ensure that it is well raised. The Fulani in West Africa are known to wrap their children in cow dung to keep them away from witches and evil spirits. This is because part of their culture shows belief in such spirits as a spiritual aspect. Unlike the western societies that employ nannies to tend to their children, the norm in societies such as the Fulani and Benga is to delegate this duty to older children. This gives room for parents to tend to other activities.
I think this book was presented to the class because of its use of anthropological research and findings. It therefore represents historical relevance since it appreciates the fact that anthropology is still considered essential to modern studies and its findings can be used to provide explanations on various aspects of human behavior. As indicated earlier anthropology is the study of human existence throughout evolution. It studies the life of man in the past and his evolution to what he is today. Such knowledge can be used to evaluate human behavior and provide a clear understanding of why humans act the way they do and all the factors that influence their mannerisms.
Much in the book is brought to life by the use of historical information gathered through the study of anthropology. The studies conducted on the seven different societies were anthropological. It is evident that the primary topic of the book in its efficiency was aided by the use of anthropology. The book is about babies and the perceptions surrounding their nurturing and growth. In order to illustrate that these perceptions vary, the authors sought to dig into the history of seven different societies and establish how their cultural backgrounds have contributed to the way they perceive childcare. Throughout the book, the findings from this researches crop up, and each time the reader develops a better understanding of the book.
The authors’ strengths lie in the fact that investigative methods were used to come up with the contents of the book. This is with illustrations from the seven societies, a factor that placed emphasis on the theme of diversity. Without these solid illustrations retrieved from actual members of these societies, it would have been difficult to derive the variations in the matter at hand. The writing of the manuals is a creative way of offering mothers around the world solutions and guidelines to their childcare problems. Additionally, illustrations are more credible than unsubstantiated work.
The style used in writing the book also contributes to the strong manner in which the message is relayed. The authors decided to use their expertise in various disciplines to offer more insight into the book content. All the contributing authors are anthropologists, psychologists or historians. The manuals are based on the anthropological background of the individual societies, which encompasses the structure of each society and their cultural values and beliefs. With this knowledge, they are able to provide readers with all the information required to relate the contents of the book.
Given the rate at which babies are brought into this world, the book is very relevant in terms of content. It is especially a good read for mothers or parents who feel they need extra help in childcare. This is because it acts as a manual for nurturing babies and it is applicable to most people around the world. The diversity in the methods outlined in the book make it useful to various people. Therefore, one has the liberty to select that, which suits them from the book. It is important to note that what works for one person may not necessarily work for another, and the authors have considered this fact when writing the book.
As a reader, I feel the authors, in writing this manual, made room for parenting mistakes. This means that they achieved the purpose of putting mothers and guardians at ease concerning their worries on the right way to raise a child. Many parents are nervous that their methods may not be enough to help their babies thrive in this world, but the book, through its insightful content, proves that there is more than one way to raise a child. Each of these ways is defined by the caregivers own perceptions on the matter of childcare and need not conform to a certain fixed standard. This comes as a relief, especially to first time mothers who are often smothered with advice and suggestions from different people thus they become skeptical about their abilities to raise a child efficiently.
Conclusively, my opinion is that the book has more strengths than weaknesses and that it is a must read for those interested in anthropology as a discipline or those worried that the methods they employ may not be sufficient enough to guarantee that their children thrive in this world. The features of anthropology have been brought out well enough, and the subject of babies is only a guide to how useful the study of anthropology is.